WATERTOWN — A crush of patients has caused the Watertown Regional Medical Center to temporarily shutter its Urgent Care doors Monday and move its staff there to its emergency department, a hospital official said.

Watertown Regional Medical Center Marketing and Communications Coordinator Steve Hunt said there has been a significant influx of patients suffering from COVID-19 and others who have put off their medical care because of the pandemic and have now seen their health decline.

“We made the decision to temporarily close Urgent Care last week,” Hunt said. “We wanted to find ways to get our emergency room additional help. There’s not a shortage of emergency room staff. We’ve seen a 50% increase in the number of patients in the emergency room, which was behind our decision to reallocate our Urgent Care staff to the emergency department.”

Hunt said the temporary closure of Urgent Care is constantly being reviewed, but he didn’t want to speculate on when it will reopen to the public.

“We’re asking the public to continue seeing their primary care providers and not put off any medical procedures they may need,” Hunt said. “Emergency care is what the community needs right now and we just moved the pieces (from Urgent Care) to match that need.”

He also recommended the influenza and COVID-19 vaccinations for those in the community.

Hunt said the vaccines do help.

“There’s definitely been an increased amount in the last two to four weeks of patients with COVID-19 in Dodge and Jefferson counties,” Hunt said. “We’re seeing a combination of patients with it and those without it.”

If individuals don’t have a primary care provider, they are urged to call 920-533-9762, but if people have an immediate need, they should call 911.

Any visit to the emergency department will result in an emergency department charge, however, primary care providers remain open. Watertown Regional Medical Center has primary care providers in Watertown, Waterloo, Johnson Creek, Lake Mills and Juneau.

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