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Some small medical practices fighting COVID on their own: 'Stretched very thin'

11Alive spoke with a local doctor who is seeing the impact of COVID on his practice - and even his family. And he's not alone.

GWINNETT COUNTY, Ga. — Oftentimes, the focus in the battle against the COVID pandemic is on larger medical facilities and hospitals. But the fight to contain the virus is hitting all levels of the healthcare industry.

"We have a lot more logistical challenges," Dr. Ravi Shah, co-owner of Magnolia Medical Clinic, said.

Dr. Shah said many private practices are fighting COVID as forcefully as large healthcare networks but are facing different challenges. Staffing is challenge number one.

"We don’t have a staffing agency like many of the big guys do. We don’t have a float pool like many of the big guys do," Dr. Shah said. "We don’t have the funding backup that would allow us to just hire people."

With about 30 people split between two locations, the practice treats COVID and regular patients in person, over the phone, and online. Plus, they offer COVID testing.

Credit: Dr. Ravi Shah

The second challenge is fighting price gouging for personal protective equipment (PPE) and other medical supplies.

"This was tough, especially in the beginning. The amount of money they were asking for, for simple PPE was pretty outrageous," Dr. Shah said. "The big hospital groups are able to purchase in more bulk and they have a lot better relationships with medical suppliers."

Communicating with state and federal health agencies has not been easy.

"I placed my order of a thousand Moderna vaccines and, actually, I have yet to receive my shipment," Shah said.

Shah added that when it comes to learning the latest COVID updates, the practice is on its own.

"I, for one, read on COVID every single night. Every day things change," he said. "Every day, things change, new variants come out, new treatments come out, new data comes out and I have to stay on top of it. Our patients can't afford to wait to receive this information directly from a department."

Credit: Provided

And to top it all off, portions of their staff have caught COVID and needed weeks off work at a time. This Includes his 70-year-old father, Dr. Suresh Shah who founded the practice. His one-month hospitalization was the only time in 30 years he's missed more than a week of work.

But the only solution, for now, Shah said, is to keep going.

"I know this sounds really crazy, but we just have to deal with these challenges," he said. "We work extra long hours and our people get stretched very thin."