Austin’s Circle Family HealthCare Network, or Circle, is seeing patients again after a crippling blizzard dumped 20 inches of snow on the city, forcing the medical center to temporary close several of its facilities on Feb. 2. Last week’s snowstorm was the third worst snowstorm in Chicago’s history.
All three of Circle’s medical centers reopened Feb. 3 except for the medical clinic located on the Austin High School campus. That center reopened Feb. 4, when Chicago Public Schools students returned to class.
CPS canceled classes for two days, giving students their first snow day since the 1999 blizzard. Circle’s medical and behavioral clinics located at 115 N. Parkside, 4909 W. Division and 1633 N. Hamlin are seeing scheduled patients as well as walk-ins.
“We reopened [Thursday] really thinking that there wouldn’t be much business … and surprisingly [we] were very busy,” said Dr. Andre Hines, Circle’s chief executive officer.
The storm brought in to both medical clinics a number of patients, including children, seeking medical attention from upper respiratory issues like asthma to flu symptoms. Several senior citizens came to the clinics suffering chest pains, Hines said. She noted the clinics saw a 30-percent increase in patient visits, a majority of whom were walk-ins.
With a deep freeze now upon the neighborhood, Hines advised seniors to not venture outside. She also encouraged residents to check on their elderly neighbors.
“This is not over,” she said. “The blizzard is over, but we are not out of danger.”
Parents also took advantage of last week’s snow day. Hines noted that many parents brought their children in to get caught up on required immunizations and annual check-ups for school.
“We actually had several parents to come in to get those exams do done,” she said. “In our community a lot of [children] are out of compliance when they go to school. We try to work with the schools to keep them in compliance.”
Hines thanked the medical staff for braving the elements to come to work and assist patients. The clinics opened on Feb. 3 at 8 a.m. with a skeleton crew, but within an hour staffing levels were near normal.
“It was quite nice to see the commitment of the staff,” she added.
She believes opening the clients was the “right decision.” Circle’s clients, she explained, “don’t just go to the hospital.”
“We were really happy that we were there for them,” she said.
The Austin Satellite Senior Center, 5071 W. Congress Parkway, also resumed operation on Thursday.