Wilmot Redesigned: How Wilmot is Staying Safe during COVID-19 and the Reopening
We know you may feel anxious about coming into the hospital or to one of our locations, and we want you to know that we have made a number of changes at our locations to ensure the safety of our employees and our patients.
Below are answers to some of the more common questions we’ve gotten about the way we have redesigned care at Wilmot. If you have specific questions about your situation, please contact your oncology team. They are your best resource to provide advice for you based on your situation.
Is it safe to come to Wilmot Cancer Center or one of its locations?
Yes, we are taking a number of precautions to protect those who need care. Because people with cancer and older adults appear to be more vulnerable to COVID-19 complications, we at Wilmot are particularly vigilant about patient and staff safety:
- Anyone entering the hospital or one of our locations is required to wear a mask. This includes employees, patients and visitors at all locations.
- All patients or visitors who enter one of our buildings are screened for COVID-19 symptoms. Our team will help those with potential symptoms get tested for COVID to ensure everyone’s safety.
- Environmental Services and other cleaning teams are aggressively keeping surfaces, door handles and other high-touch surfaces disinfected.
- Health care workers use an isolated clinic space with appropriate additional personal protective equipment (PPE), such as face shields, gloves and eye protection, to care for all patients who are suspected to have COVID-19 positivity and thus a risk of transmission.
- Whenever possible, patients are brought directly to exam rooms, to avoid time in waiting areas.
- For those who must wait, these spaces have been rearranged to ensure social/physical distancing.
- Scheduling has been spread out. We are seeing fewer patients per hour over a longer period of time, to minimize the number of people who are in our facilities.
- A zero-visitors policy with very few exceptions remains in place to ensure we can follow proper social distancing that helps to keep our vulnerable patients safe. While we know this is difficult, our teams will help you stay connected with your family or support person while you’re here. Please ask your team if you need assistance.
What is Wilmot's current visitor policy?
First, it’s important to stress, we understand how important family is when it comes to cancer. Cancer is truly a family diagnosis and it is important for family to be involved in a patient’s diagnosis and care. However, while we have flattened the curve in our region, COVID-19 is still present in our community. Cancer patients are among the most vulnerable when it comes to COVID-19. Knowing this, it is our responsibility to protect our patients and our employees from anyone who could unknowingly spread the disease among our patients. We know this is hard, but we have to continue limiting visitation to our hospital. For patients who are admitted to the hospital and staying overnight, we have a revised limited inpatient visitor policy. On the outpatient side, we continue to have a zero-visitors policy, with very limited exceptions. Patients or families with questions should talk with their oncology team.
That being said, our teams are working to come up with ways we can change our space or procedures to allow us to open back up for visitors. In the meantime, we have tools that can help patients communicate with loved ones or a support person while they’re here for hospitalization or an outpatient visit. If you have your own device, such as a smartphone or iPad, we can help you connect through that. If you do not, we have iPads or other technology to help you stay connected with loved ones while you’re here. Please ask your team for help.
What should I do to prepare myself before my visit to Wilmot?
- Talk to your oncology team before coming in to learn if there is anything you need to know.
- Monitor your own health. If you have symptoms such as a new cough, fever, sore throat, etc. immediately before a scheduled appointment, please contact your oncology team.
- Please wear a mask when you come for your appointment. If you don’t have a mask, we will give you one when you arrive.
- If you have a support person you’d like to include during your appointment, make sure you bring an electronic device, such as a smartphone or tablet. If you do not have a device like this, or if you need help with your device, let your team know. They may be able to help.
Why are you still doing these strict safety measures?
While we appear to have flattened the curve in our region, there is the possibility of a spike in cases if we relax too much, too soon. Because our patients are more vulnerable to COVID-19 than the people who do not have cancer, it’s critical that we maintain these measures to ensure the safety of everyone. We know these changes can create stress, but for now, it is important we follow the precautions. Our social workers can advise you on ways to cope with these changes.
What should I do if I have traveled or plan to travel to a state listed as restricted on New York’s travel advisory?
In an effort to reduce COVID-19 transmission in New York, where the number of positive cases is declining, New York has ordered people traveling from a state with significant community-wide spread of COVID-19 to quarantine for 14 days. The list of states changes as COVID-19 cases change, so if you have traveled outside New York recently, or if you plan to soon, please talk with your oncology team. They can provide the best advice that ensures your safety as well as safety of all our patients and community once you return.
What are the COVID-19 and antibody testing procedures for patients and staff?
- Anyone who will be hospitalized at Strong Memorial Hospital or Wilmot is tested for COVID-19 before being admitted.
- Patients seen on an outpatient basis who exhibit symptoms of COVID-19 may be able to get tested. Talk to your oncology team about your symptoms or concerns.
- UR Medicine began offering antibody testing in June. Faculty and staff at URMC are able to get the test. The test may also be available for UR medicine patients who previously had symptoms of COVID-19 but did not receive testing at the time.
- It’s important to understand that even if you test positive for the antibodies, which means you had COVID-19 in the past, it is not clear if that means you are immune from COVID-19 or how long potential immunity might last. That is why it is important to remain vigilant with safety precautions like washing your hands frequently and wearing a mask, even if you test positive for the antibodies.
- Learn more about antibody testing at UR Medicine.
How are you keeping your facilities clean between patients?
Cleaning is important throughout our facilities, but it’s particularly important on high-touch surfaces and in patient areas, such as exam room beds or infusion chairs. Following CDC and URMC’s Infection Prevention team guidelines, our staff members wipe down surfaces thoroughly, throughout the day, to ensure safety.
Can I use telemedicine for my appointment?
Depending on the reason for your visit, you may be able to have a telemedicine appointment instead of coming into the hospital. Telemedicine visits are primarily done through video using a smartphone, tablet or other device with a camera. However, they can be done by phone in some cases. Learn more about telemedicine at Wilmot Cancer Institute.
As a cancer patient, what do I need to do to keep myself safe?
The steps to prevent the spread of COVID-19 are the same for everyone. These include:
- Washing your hands frequently with warm water and soap for at least 20 seconds, or for as long as it takes to sing the Happy Birthday song twice.
- Avoiding touching your eyes, nose and face.
- Staying hydrated and getting plenty of rest.
- Avoiding close contact with people who are sick and stay home when you are sick.
- Cleaning and disinfecting objects you touch frequently, such as surfaces, doorknobs, tables, etc.
Learn more about common questions about COVID-19 among those with cancer.
Should I still get my routine cancer screenings?
If you are due or overdue for your routine cancer screenings, you should reach out to your team to see about scheduling an appointment. They can provide guidance. For the most part, UR Medicine’s Imaging, Gastroenterology and other departments are working to schedule patients who had to be cancelled in March, April or May. Calendars will fill up quickly so if you have a question, don’t hesitate to call.
Beyond routine screening, if you have a symptom that could be cancer — such as a lump, unusual bleeding, persistent change in bathroom habits, persistent cough or hoarseness, or difficulty swallowing — it is particularly important to have the symptoms checked.
Are support groups still cancelled?
Wilmot Cancer Institute is not hosting in-person support groups, but we have begun to shift some of our support groups to Zoom. To find out what’s available, please contact our Community Resource Help Line at (585) 276-4708 or by email at WilmotCommunityResHelp@URMC.Rochester.edu.
Additionally, Wilmot’s Pluta Integrative Oncology & Wellness Center offers virtual Integrative Oncology classes, such as meditation, yoga, exercise and journaling. These classes are free and open to any Wilmot patient. To learn more, call (585) 486-0630 or visit our Virtual Integrative Oncology page.
Is cancer research still happening at Wilmot?
Yes! While our research labs and clinical trials ramped down for a period from mid-March through mid-May, most are back up and running now. Like other areas at Wilmot, our research labs are following COVID safety precautions and social distancing practices. For example, they have staggered schedules to reduce the number of people in the lab at one time and they all wear masks, as do all URMC employees while indoors on campus.
Our researchers remain dedicated to finding better ways to treat cancer to lessen the burden it has on our patients and our community.
What can I do to help Wilmot?
The outpouring of support we have seen since the COVID-19 pandemic began has been inspiring. If you are interested in helping, here are a few options:
- Make a donation to Wilmot to support cancer research or our Patient Needs Fund.
- If you are healthy, consider donating blood. Many of our patients require blood transfusions but due to stay-at-home orders, the blood supply is lower.
- If you’ve tested positive for COVID-19 in the past, consider donating plasma, which could help others diagnosed with the virus. Learn more about donating plasma.
- Participate in the virtual Wilmot Warrior Walk, in September, from which funds support cancer research and the Judy DiMarzo Cancer Survivorship Program at Wilmot.
- Read about other ways to help.
I have other questions. Where can I get help answering them?
UR Medicine has an FAQ page that may help. You can always reach out to your oncology team or primary care physician with questions. There is also a UR Medicine Coronavirus hotline available at 1-844-457-8762, or you can call Wilmot at (585) 275-5823 if you are a current patient or (585) 275-5830 if you are a new patient.
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