We are living in a global event most of us could not have imagined even a few weeks ago. The COVID-19 pandemic has caused unprecedented changes in all our lives, with profound upheavals in family, social, financial and work situations.
And not only is this pandemic affecting our most vulnerable including cancer patients – it has also changed the lives of those that care for them, our healthcare workers.
Hospitals are rapidly shifting to adapt to the evolving demands of caring for COVID-19 patients, and Roswell Park is no exception. That’s why the Roswell Park Alliance Foundation has created the COVID-19 Response Fund to support our patients, caregivers and staff in four vital areas.
Donations to the Roswell Park COVID-19 Response Fund help:
- Support patients facing financial struggles caused by COVID-19 through the Angel Fund, a financial assistance program.
- Provide care to patients and staff through telecommunications, meals, respite and more.
- Advance research projects to develop treatments for COVID-19 for cancer patients and the general public.
- Provide the essential medical supplies our healthcare workers need right now including N95 masks, surgical masks and isolation gowns.
To learn more about these four focus areas, scroll down below. Additional information will be added as this ever-evolving situation continues and new needs within these focus areas are identified.
We need your help today
While we don’t know how long this current environment will last, we do know there is an immediate need for help. Support Roswell Park today in this new fight, right here at home. Donations you make now will directly support our coronavirus research and patients and staff in need.
An in-depth look at the four vital areas supported by the Roswell Park COVID-19 Response Fund:
Patient Financial Assistance – The Angel Fund
There are times when patients and their families experience extraordinary financial challenges when diagnosed with cancer and undergoing treatment. The impact of COVID-19 makes that financial strain even more debilitating. Such challenges may include medication costs, childcare expenses, catastrophic events or durable medical equipment needs. The lack of financial resources to meet these challenges may prevent or inhibit patients from receiving the treatment they require, which is the kind of decision our vulnerable population should not have to make. The Angel Fund provides critical financial support for those we serve who find themselves in sudden and desperate financial circumstances during this pandemic.
Staff & Patient Support
While there is a self-isolation and work from home mandate from New York State, there are essential clinical staff and patients who have to come to Roswell Park. These individuals do not have a choice during this pandemic but here are several ways this fund seeks to support these individuals during this pandemic.
Roswell Park continues to expand virtual visit opportunities between our patients and providers to decrease the need for patients to come to the hospital. While video conferencing brings significant comfort to patients, we believe these appointments could be greatly enhanced by also providing objective data regarding the patient’s clinical status. In order to do that, we would like to provide patients with health monitoring supplies including a pulse oximeter, blood pressure cuff, and thermometer. Knowing a person’s blood oxygen level, heart rate, blood pressure and temperature would provide beneficial insights to physicians as compared to verbal assessments that tend to be more subjective in nature.
Meals for Frontline Caregivers
Healthcare workers on the frontline are putting in long, strenuous hours. To support them, the fund seeks to purchase $25 gift cards from local restaurants across Western New York to give to Roswell Park healthcare workers. We want to alleviate the worry of “what will I feed my family” by providing this support to order a take-out meal for their family at the end of their long shift.
Roswell currently has 1,300 workers deemed essential to clinical operations across three shifts that could be personally supported from this initiative. The frequency of this support would be dictated by the amount of funds raised.
Staff Wellness Rooms
Roswell Park’s clinical staff is working hard every day to see that our patients and families are cared for during this most difficult time. It is equally important that we ensure this critical workforce is caring for their own physical, emotional and spiritual well-being. Two staff wellness rooms have been created to provide resources and serenity during a long shift. Thanks to donations to the Roswell Park Alliance Foundation, with support from Pegula Sports & Entertainment, KeyBank and M&T Bank, for the two massage chairs for the Staff Wellness Rooms on the first and sixth floor of the hospital.
iPads for Patient Communication
With visitor limitations in place at Roswell Park due to the critical need for physical distancing from our vulnerable population, cancer patients are left feeling isolated and alone in their hospital rooms. This has caused anxiety for loved ones who are desperate for any contact with them or with staff on their status. iPads are a great help for patients and for doctors wishing to communicate with family during rounds. Thanks to donations to the Roswell Park Alliance Foundation, with support from Pegula Sports & Entertainment, KeyBank and M&T Bank, 151 iPads and supporting equipment will be provided to each of the 151 patient rooms at Roswell Park with one iPad for the duration of a patient’s stay.
COVID-19 Medical Treatment and Research
Roswell Park researchers are applying their expertise in the immune system and how our bodies respond to infection to help develop new approaches to help treat and control COVID-19. Several research projects are already underway or in development, including participation in major international studies as well as new and innovative ideas originating from Roswell Park teams. Research donations to Roswell’s COVID-19 Response Fund will be earmarked for these studies.
- The new coronavirus, known as COVID-19, suppresses the body’s immune response, limiting its natural ability to control the virus. As there is no proven therapy for COVID-19, there is an urgent need to develop and test new therapeutic options that strengthen the immune response. Principal investigators Drs. Kunle Odunsi and Carl Morrison will lead a study to better understand biomarkers of the immune system’s response to COVID-19 in order to identify patients who are likely to progress to severe infection, thus requiring more intensive care. This study will allow medical professionals to predict the likely course of disease progression to allow triage of patients at highest risk for respiratory failure and death.
- When patients die from COVID-19, typically the specific cause is pulmonary failure. Not only is it necessary to identify immediate effective treatments for pulmonary failure, but the ability to provide that therapy to as many patients as possible is critical.
Roswell Park is the only center in Western New York with a vast and deep clinical experience in new drug development. We have created a working clinical research group with colleagues at the University at Buffalo, Erie County Medical Center, Buffalo General Hospital and Millard Fillmore Suburban and are leveraging our contacts and infrastructure to bring promising therapies to patients throughout the region as soon as possible. This includes a study led by Dr. Igor Puzanov to provide sarilumab, an anti-IL6 inhibitory monoclonal antibody used to treat rheumatoid arthritis, to patients in Buffalo as part of a major international research effort.
Additional promising research studies we must push forward as quickly as possible include citywide use of Roswell Park’s Donor Center for obtaining convalescent plasma from recovered COVID-19 patients under a nationwide effort spearheaded by the Mayo Clinic; and a study for cancer patients combining two immunotherapies first developed for treating cancer, a proposed study that is at the U.S. FDA waiting for initial authorization.
- There is no proven therapy for COVID-19, raising an urgent need to develop and test new therapies – especially for those with high-risk, life-threatening COVID-19. Drs. Brahm Segal and Pawel Kalinski will conduct a clinical trial to evaluate the safety of a combination of two immune-modulating drugs, first developed as cancer immunotherapies, to treat COVID-19 infection in cancer patients. This treatment regimen has been developed and evaluated by Dr. Kalinski for patients with advanced solid tumors and shows very good tolerability. The team plans to repurpose this innovative combination approach as an antiviral therapy for COVID-19. Up to 44 patients with cancer and COVID-19 will be specifically enrolled in this clinical trial over six months.
N95 masks are an invaluable line of defense for our staff against coronavirus. There is a global shortage of this vital resource, and Roswell Park has a growing need for these masks. Currently, brokers are commanding high prices on minimum quantities, and Roswell Park is working with other local healthcare systems to pool our resources to meet the minimums required and also help purchase at a lower per-unit cost based on these higher quantities. Support of the COVID-19 Response Fund will help Roswell Park purchase approved N95 masks, surgical masks and isolation gowns to quickly get them into the hands of our front line staff to keep them and our patients safe.