Jeff LeBenger, the executive chairman of Summit Health, knows how important the company’s CityMD brand is to the New York-New Jersey community. After all, CityMD has been averaging approximately 18,000 daily COVID tests at its nearly 140 locations — with each one seeing lines that never seem to end.
So, it pained him Wednesday to have to temporarily close three locations in New Jersey (in Jersey City, Wayne and Raritan). LeBenger, however, said he had no choice. The reason: The staff was hit with COVID-19.
“This is a community-based virus that affects everybody and every business, including ours,” he told ROI-NJ. “And we can’t open a facility if we do not have enough employees to be efficient.”
LeBenger said the organization has been thoughtful in its approach throughout the pandemic — and has been quick to move employees to different locations to fill needs throughout the pandemic. The same consideration went into the site closings, he said.
“We know how much the community needs us,” he said. “That’s why, when we looked at closing certain locations, we made sure that another location was close by, so we could absorb the volume.”
Because the CityMD sites vary in size, LeBenger said there’s no definitive number of employees needed to open, but he did say each location needs intake specialists, physician assistants and doctors to run efficiently.
The main reason: CityMD is more than just a testing facility — and it tests for more than just COVID-19.
“When a person comes in, they are being fully evaluated, they are being tested for influenza — if they are sick, we want to diagnose them as accurately as possible,” he said.
He mentioned one office had three employees who were convinced they had COVID. It turns out, they had the flu.
“Those people got the information they needed,” he said.
LeBenger hopes he will not have to close any additional locations, but he admits he can’t be sure.
“I can’t tell you that, with everything we know that’s happening in the environment,” he said. “I just know I can’t send a person into work that I know has Omicron.”
LeBenger also said he feels this latest surge in cases will not be over anytime soon.
“The holidays are coming, so people are going to be in close quarters,” he said. “We usually see a big jump 2-3 weeks after there are a lot of gatherings.
“So, hopefully, this will go through the population by the end of January or early February.”
And, while he said CityMD employees have been vigilant with their use of personal protective equipment, he said the Omicron variant is so highly transmissible that it’s difficult to limit its spread.
LeBenger said CityMD will do whatever it can. The communities it serves, he said, deserve it.
“We really need to make sure that we staff our urgent care businesses properly, because have to make sure our sites are efficient,” he said. “Unfortunately, we’ve had to close certain sites. But we still have nearly 140 locations open in the New York-New Jersey metropolitan area, so we are still serving the health needs as best we can.”