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Physicist Describes Institution’s Changes During the COVID-19 Response

Matthew B. Podgorsak, PhD
American Board of Radiology
Specialty: Therapeutic Medical Physics

How has the COVID-19 pandemic impacted your daily work? “Early in the pandemic, we instituted best practices recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to keep our patients and staff safe. This included patient and staff screening (family members were not permitted in our clinic areas), universal mask-wearing, enhanced cleaning of immobilization devices and all surfaces that touch a patient and limiting the number of staff within enclosed spaces.

“Our institute leadership prohibited work-related travel and strongly encouraged any personal travel to be postponed. Our department also instituted work-from-home policies that enabled us to lower the density of staff within our department but, nonetheless, continue with our clinical operations. Our patient peer-review conferences were all transitioned to virtual meetings, and our academic teaching was also done virtually. Patient consultations and clinic visits were also mostly virtual during the peak of the pandemic, although these are slowly transitioning back to more in-person visits with health-care practitioners.

“Throughout the pandemic, we continued to treat all patients who were referred to us. Very few patients, if any, had their fractionation schedules shortened or altered as a result of the pandemic. We did increase our treatment timeslots to lower the number of patients in our clinic at any given time and to provide added time between patients to clean equipment. At the lowest, our patient volume dipped to about 60 percent of our pre-pandemic daily treatments, and we are seeing a slow rise toward our usual census, although as of the end of June we are still only at 75 percent of our usual daily treatments.

“With our community reaching the final phase of the re-opening process, we continue to screen all patients and staff who enter our facility, we continue with universal mask-wearing, and we continue to have social distancing requirements in our clinical areas, and, consequently, we have not yet transitioned back to a full-staff on-site presence. Work travel remains prohibited. It will be quite a while, I think, before we relax the changes implemented as a result of coronavirus. Some changes may remain permanent.”

Certified by American Board of Radiology, Dr. Podgorsak serves as Chief Physicist in the Department of Radiation Medicine at Roswell Park Center Institute.

(Used with permission from the American Board of Radiology, originally published online on June 1, 2020)

(Published: September 8, 2020)

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