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Augusta Health making changes to ensure cancer care can continue safely

For patients undergoing cancer treatment at Augusta Health's Center For Cancer And Blood Disorders, changes the hospital has made are obvious before people even walk through the door. | Credit: WHSV
For patients undergoing cancer treatment at Augusta Health's Center For Cancer And Blood Disorders, changes the hospital has made are obvious before people even walk through the door. | Credit: WHSV(WHSV)
Published: Apr. 29, 2020 at 6:18 PM EDT
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While many have put off going to the doctor during the COVID-19 pandemic, cancer treatments are not something that can be put on hold. At Augusta Health, doctors have made changes to make sure patients can continue getting treatment while preventing the spread of COVID-19.

For patients undergoing cancer treatment at Augusta Health's Center For Cancer And Blood Disorders, changes the hospital has made are obvious before people even walk through the door.

"We've kind of transitioned the waiting room to outside, out front of our cancer center," Mary-Kate DePriest, director of clinical operations for the cancer center, said.

Patients drive up to check in and undergo a detailed screening. They're asked about their symptoms and possible COVID-19 exposure.

"We physically screen them for a temperature, and then if they check negative for all those screens, we get them into the building, and that's very different than what we ever did before," DePriest said.

At Augusta Health, they said they've seen somewhat of a decrease in patients, but they're still seeing more than 80 patients a day on average.

"These are patients that need care. They're getting life-saving treatment, and we're taking care of them," DePriest said.

That care has also meant changes inside the center. There aren't any common areas inside the center where people could linger, and both patients and providers are wearing personal protective equipment.

"They don't have any defense system in place, so they need that extra layer of PPE, personal protective equipment, on both sides, from us, and for themselves wearing it," DePriest said.

All of these precautions are about creating the best experience for patients.

"We want to make sure that they're comfortable and confident in the care they're getting from us," DePriest said.

She added that care has also gotten a lot more personalized after getting rid of the waiting room, along with the other changes.

"It's a more personable service, it's a concierge service to be honest with you," DePriest said. "We're outside, curbside, recognizing these patients by first and last name, you see them every day."

DePriest said they've gotten good feedback because of the changes, and some of them could stay after the pandemic is over.

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