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COVID-19 surge spills over into primary care

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New York City Health + Hospitals

Michigan’s fourth COVID-19 surge has slammed into the state’s primary care clinics.

Julie Tatko is the CEO of Family Health Care, a network of primary care clinics in rural west-central Michigan. She said her staff are so busy guiding patients through COVID-19 that they barely have time to keep up with people’s chronic diseases.

“It diverts our attention and our ability to care for those other ongoing health care needs that we have, including ongoing diseases that they need to be continually taking care of themselves for so that it doesn’t progress and become more serious,” Tatko said.

Across the state, Dr. Tom Marshall has run into the same problem at Alcona Health in Northeast Michigan. Marshall is the chief medical officer at that community health network.

“We’re trying to keep an open office for the people who have, you know, heart problems and lung problems and all the usual things that we take care of in our area,” said Marshall.

Health system leaders said increasing the state’s vaccination rate will help slow COVID-19’s spread.

Michigan recently celebrated achieving a 70% first-dose vaccination rate among people 16 and older, but state data also show that in some of the counties Tatko and Marshall’s clinics cover, less than half the population is fully vaccinated.