Patient Care

Wilmot Redesigned: How Wilmot is Staying Safe during COVID-19 and the Reopening

Feb. 15, 2021

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.

 

Should cancer patients get the COVID-19 vaccine? 

In a word, yes. Data from clinical trials that included tens of thousands of people show the vaccines are safe. And while the trials did not specifically include cancer patients, we have no reason to suspect it is unsafe for cancer patients. The vaccine does not contain live virus, and people with cancer have safely received vaccines to prevent other illnesses. In general, we recommend any cancer patients who are eligible to get it as soon as they can.

That being said, you may want to keep two considerations in mind: Allergic reactions and timing. If you have ever had a severe allergic reaction to a cancer treatment or to ingredients that may be in the vaccine, you should consult your physician first. Together, you and your doctor can discuss your medical history, including past reactions, and determine the best path forward based on your own personal benefits and risks.   

As far as timing, it is recommended cancer patients get the vaccine as soon as they are offered it. However, patients on certain treatments should keep in mind that if their immune system is weakened from treatment, they may not gain maximum protection. It is still worthwhile to get vaccinated because experts believe the vaccine will offer some protection against COVID-19. However, for these patients, continued safety practices like masking and social distancing remain important. Also, there may be options to boost immunity down the road, when vaccine is more available. If you have questions, please talk with your oncology team.

Read more about what cancer patients should know regarding the COVID-19 vaccine or learn more about getting vaccinated at flvaccinehub.com or at Vaccine.URMC.edu

 

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 cancer 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 few exceptions remains in place on the outpatient side to ensure we can follow proper social distancing that helps to keep our vulnerable patients safe. For hospitalized patients, visitation is limited. 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?

We understand how important loved ones are when it comes to cancer. However, people with cancer are among the most vulnerable when it comes to COVID-19. Knowing this, it is our responsibility to protect our patients and our employees by limiting visitation.

If you are coming to an appointment: 

  • Patients coming in for a clinic appointment may have one visitor, when waiting room space allows. 
  • Visitors are currently not permitted in the infusion center or in radiation therapy waiting area because of the very limited space available in these locations.

All visitors must go through a screening station before entering. If waiting area space is too full, visitors may be asked to wait in their car until the visit begins. Please ask a staff member if you have questions. 

If you are admitted to the hospital and staying overnight, as of April 5, 2021

  • Two visitors per day are permitted, but not at the same time. All visitors must be 18 years old or older.
  • Visiting hours are between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. Visitation is limited to 4 consecutive hours per visitor, per day. 
  • Visitors are asked to coordinate the switch between visitors outside the hospital. 

‚ÄčThere are limited exceptions, such as for patients with developmental disabilities or cognitive impairment, pediatric patients, and end-of-life care. Please speak with your care team if you have questions. 

See the visitation policies for hospitals within the UR Medicine network.

 

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?

Because our patients are more vulnerable to COVID-19 than 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 work team 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, the state has issued a travel advisory. Specific requirements may change from week to week, but you can see the most updated information on the state's coronavirus travel advisory webpage. If you have traveled outside New York or plan to soon, please talk with your oncology team first. 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?

A patient care technician wipes down an exam room bed at Wilmot Cancer

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 to 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. Talk to your primary care provider. If you don't have a primary care doctor, find one in UR Medicine's network

 

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.
  • 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.