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“We are calling ourselves at this point COVID doctors”: Family doctors are being hit hard by COVID-19

Published: Aug. 25, 2021 at 11:07 PM EDT
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. (WCJB) -Family doctors play a crucial role in getting people tested for COVID-19 and creating a plan to get better. Dr. Shenary Cotter with Gainesville Direct Primary Care Physicians explained because of the Delta variant surge, just about all of her calls are COVID related. However, she believes this trend can be stopped.

“We’ve had patient deaths,” explained Dr. Cotter.

While COVID-19 has wreaked havoc on hospitals in North Central Florida and across the country, especially during the latest surge, it has also hit Dr. Cotter and other family doctors hard as well.

“We are calling ourselves at this point COVID doctors because my most frequent phone call, email, text message, and request for an office visit is an issue surrounding COVID,” said Dr. Cotter.

The office’s only nurse and practice manager said the day begins with calls related to the pandemic.

“Monday alone walked into the practice at 8:01 I got the first call. I think I had seven or eight before 11 o’clock. That’s as well as my office assistant who is answering phone calls, answering COVID calls, and directing them back to me,” said Jennifer L. Forrest.

According to Dr. Cotter, multiple unvaccinated patients at the practice died with COVID-19, and over the past 4-weeks, the infection rate has been going up.

“We have seen more positive COVID tests than we saw in the entire pandemic previously since the beginning,” said Dr. Cotter.

She said there have been some bright spots.

“That is the happiest phone call I get, ‘Can I come in to see you to talk about the vaccine?’ When my partner recently came to me, we are both pretty exhausted. We have been working every day now for over three weeks, about four weeks. She said, ‘What do you consider a win these days?’ I looked her in the eye, and I said, ‘When someone decides to get vaccinated because I talked to them.’ She said, ‘Yeah, me too.’ So that is pretty much our win these days,” said Dr. Cotter.

The staff didn’t have to look far for a win because inside of their office, their nurse decided to get vaccinated.

“I’m an example for others here,” said Forrest. “Not to show anybody hey I’m better than anybody else, it is strictly just a good health precaution, something that is happening to everybody right now or everybody is susceptible to.”

Dr. Cotter said fear is the biggest concern she has heard about from people who are hesitant to get vaccinated.

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