Dear friend of the WVU Cancer Institute,
I hope you and your loved ones are doing well during this challenging time. As you well know, the COVID-19 pandemic has affected every facet of our lives. Yet, the coronavirus has not stopped cancer. We are continuing to provide excellent care for our patients while simultaneously protecting them and our employees from exposure to the virus.
We are using convenient telehealth tools to connect with patients whenever possible, limiting the number of people who visit our facilities and come in contact with our staff. Telehealth now accounts for about 60% of our appointments, but we continue to perform essential surgeries, infusion therapy and radiation oncology treatments on-site as necessary. To ensure everyone’s health and safety, access to our facilities is limited to one designated entrance for patients and a separate entrance for employees. Everyone is screened upon entry, and patients are not permitted to bring anyone into treatment areas with them except for serious circumstances. With the reduced patient volume on-site, we are repurposing employees as we can to preserve jobs. To aid patients in need as a result of COVID-19, we have secured a $20,000 grant from the Bristol-Myers Squibb Foundation. In the coming weeks, we will begin to follow the outlined West Virginia recovery guidelines to expand clinic access, both in person and via video visits, and proceed with those urgent elective surgeries that our patients so desperately need.
We are also looking ahead and planning thoughtfully to determine how our research, education, and service efforts will change as our state reopens. We envision four phases that will define our new normal, each based on the availability of resources – including virus testing, antibody testing, and a vaccine – to track and fight COVID-19. Although our research activities are limited due to the virus, two of our researchers are studying the virus to expand scientific knowledge and expedite development of these critical resources.
Amid all these efforts, please rest assured that we are taking responsible steps behind the scenes to improve the future of cancer care in West Virginia. Among other initiatives, we are doing what we can to attract key talent and expertise for vital positions, proceed with our mobile lung cancer screening project, and partner with pediatrics as construction continues for the new WVU Medicine Children’s Hospital. We could not proceed with these strategic efforts to expand our programs and improve the quality of cancer care in West Virginia without support from our patients, donors, and friends. As always, we are grateful for your dedication to the WVU Cancer Institute and look forward to achieving a brighter future together.
Hannah Hazard-Jenkins, MD, FACS