Bayonne Medical Center to study effects of COVID-19 on cancer patients

Cancer patients are vulnerable to the virus, especially if undergoing chemotherapy

A woman in a mask receives chemotherapy, by Shutterstock.
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A woman in a mask receives chemotherapy, by Shutterstock.

Bayonne Medical Center (BMC) will study the effects of COVID-19 on cancer patients, according to Chief Hospital Executive Dr. Vijay Singh.

In an interview with the Bayonne Community News, Singh detailed a new study that will take place at the hospital.

Singh said that BMC has been selected, alongside Christ Hospital in Jersey City, to host a study that aims to determine what effects COVID-19 has on patients fighting cancer.

The hospital has received a grant and will participate with the Commission on Cancer and the American College of Surgeons. The hospital was recently recertified with the Commission on Cancer and is now setting up the study.

The hospital is organizing a registry for patients to participate in the study and have received the necessary paperwork. BMC needs a subset of cancer patients who beat COVID-19 to gather data from.

Singh said that the study is a “huge milestone” for “small community hospitals” like BMC.

The hospital is working hard to ensure the safe treatment of people fighting cancer, Singh said.

The Oncology Room 

Prior to the pandemic, the hospital outfitted its Emergency Room with its an Oncology Room, with educational material about oncological diseases and emergencies.

Some nurses in the ER have education to treat oncology-related emergencies.

“This room was one of the best practices we adopted from national practices guidelines,” Singh said.

According to Singh, the room is for patients who have either been recently diagnosed or are already undergoing therapy and have come to the ER. The patient’s primary care physician and oncologist would be notified and could tend to the patient in the Oncology Room.

The workflow and care plans are aligned with the oncologist’s recommended treatment.

Singh said the room offers a calming, healing environment despite the stress of the disease.

Vulnerable to COVID-19 

Cancer patients are among the most vulnerable to COVID-19, especially when a preexisting condition is paired with chemotherapy, which weakens the immune system.

“Because of the decreased immunity, because of their own natural immunity, or it could be because of their recent treatment that they underwent, they are prone to COVID,” Singh said.

Many cancer patients opted to stop receiving treatment during the height of the pandemic.

“Patients were not coming into the hospital for the infusions,” Singh said.

Primary care physicians and consultants were doing telemedicine with cancer patients, but transfusions and other treatments were postponed at the time for the safety of the patients.

In May, BMC began allowing infusions again for patients who desperately required it due to ongoing cycles of chemotherapy.

This was initially done on a case-by-case basis, but now the hospital has a symptom screening process. This includes temperature checks for the infusion patient every day before coming to the hospital and then 24 hours after the infusion.

Singh said that the hospital is now back to normal and is seeing the return of all patients undergoing cycles of chemotherapy and radiation therapy. He said the fear of catching COVID-19 while at the hospital receiving treatment has dissipated.

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