Safety of patients and staff always the top priority
Petros Nikolinakos, MD President, University Cancer and Blood Center and Georgia CORE Board Member
At University Cancer & Blood Center, the safety of our patients and staff is always a top priority. To address the challenge of reducing risk of exposure while maintaining uninterrupted treatment plans, we proactively implemented a thorough screening process for patients and employees entering our building very early in the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition to limiting building admittance to only the patient, this screening process entails that each individual undergoes a health and symptoms questionnaire prior to entering the building. The patient is then provided a mask, screened for a fever, given a screening sticker and allowed to proceed as usual for their appointment.
Furthermore, our waiting room and treatment chairs have been spaced out to a minimum of 6 feet apart and all surfaces are routinely disinfected throughout the day. UCBC also began Telehealth visits to continue care while reducing the volume of patients in our building. This also allows our immunocompromised patients to remain home but still receive test results and treatment planning. Our goal was to only have staff and patients undergoing treatment within our facilities, which we have achieved. Remarkably throughout this process, we have found our patients and family members to be extremely appreciative of the measures we took early on in an effort to protect their safety while being able to continue their care. In order to provide clear communication to our community, we have shared all of the UCBC COVID-19 processes on our social media pages, as a popup on our website, and on radio announcements.
Similar measures have been implemented for our staff. All staff must go through two temperature checks daily, once upon arrival and once midday, and receive a screening sticker each time. In addition, patient-facing staff must wear N95 masks at all times. Our clinical research patients are proceeding with visits as usual, unless a telehealth visit can occur per protocol. We cancelled all onsite monitoring visits, site initiation visits, and prestudy visits and are performing these remotely when possible. We are also working towards opening one of the novel vaccine trials directed towards uninfected individuals without cancer and are considering assisting the hospital in implementing a convalescent plasma project in close collaboration with the FDA.
Finally, and looking forward, we will begin implementing as early as next week inhouse rapid testing for COVID-19 and will begin to screen all of our staff free of charge, if they wish to be tested, with the hopes of protecting both staff and patients. We hope to expand that service in some fashion to patients visiting the clinic. We believe that widespread rapid testing protocols will be one of the most effective solutions in the long term to control this disease. Thus far, we have been successful in maintaining a safe environment for our patients and employees. As we continue to follow COVID-19 developments and recommendations, we will implement and adapt policies even ahead of the curve that will allow us to continue caring for perhaps the most vulnerable in our society during this unprecedented crisis.