Omicron Variant

Non-Profit Health Clinics Face Staff Shortages Amid Omicron Surge

NBCUniversal, Inc.

The omicron variant of COVID-19 is placing pressure that smaller non-profit health clinics say they haven’t faced since the pandemic started.

On Friday, Enrique Cavallero found the Agape Clinic in east Dallas closed to in-person visits.

“I showed up and the gate was closed, which is odd,” Cavallero said.

Odd because the community clinic is the place Cavallero expected to receive medical care.

Agape, which serves largely uninsured North Texans stopped in-person visits on Monday because of COVID-19 cases among its medical staff.

“That’s understandable but at the same time I’ve missed my appointment,” Cavallero said.

Paul Hoffmann is the executive director of Agape Clinic. He says two of his staff tested positive this week, but with just a staff of 12, switching to a virtual-only model is a decision Hoffman says he felt obligated to make.

“It was a hard decision,” Hoffman said. “I felt like it was best for everybody involved but it was not taken lightly.”

At Los Barrios Unidos Community Clinic, about 12% of its 250 staff are out right now.

Joleen Bagwell, chief development officer at the west Dallas non-profit clinic, said the total number of staff subject to quarantine is the highest amount so far in two years of the pandemic. Bagwell says the doors will always stay open for patients, but it also equates to more video and over-the-phone appointments.

“It may not be perfect, but it’s certainly better than no access to healthcare at all,” Bagwell said. “We are still meeting the need and the demand, which is miraculous and I’m going to credit our healthcare heroes for that.”

Agape Clinic is hopeful it can reopen to patients as soon as Monday. Cavallero took the delay in stride on Friday and said he plans to return.

“It’s (omicron) here, let’s deal with it,” Cavallero said. Let’s be civil and be smart about how we can take care of ourselves and those around us.”

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