In mid-April of this year, the Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust announced a multimillion-dollar effort to save the lives of COVID-19 patients and protect the frontline healthcare workers caring for them. The generous grant helped fund the purchase of eight LUCAS mechanical chest compression devices for SCL Health Montana, including two devices for Holy Rosary Healthcare -- one of which is now shared with Miles City Fire and Rescue.
With an increase in cardiac complications caused by COVID-19, both patients and healthcare workers are at greater risk, as hands-on CPR can be needed for extended periods and personal protective equipment can become less effective in keeping the virus from spreading to medical providers.
Research has shown cardiac damage in as many as 1 in 5 COVID-19 patients, leading to heart failure and death even among those who show no signs of respiratory distress. Among patients who recover, many could have long-term effects from such heart damage. For the eastern Montana community and the patients who experience these difficulties, the addition of two devices means that patients are able to receive more consistent and safer chest compressions from EMS during their transport to Holy Rosary Healthcare.
For Sarah Lewin, Captain and Emergency Medical Service (EMS) Officer for the Miles City Fire and Rescue team, providing quick care in a rural setting like Miles City, when every second counts during transport, is crucial in saving lives.
“People experiencing cardiac arrest need high-quality CPR, early defibrillation, and whatever corrections are necessary to correct the cardiac arrest,” Lewin said. “To the farthest reaches of our county, it may be 40 or 50 miles by ground, but may take three hours to get there depending on the road conditions. The LUCAS device makes this adequate treatment for extended periods of time possible.”
The Helmsley Charitable Trust Grant funds innovative projects that use information technologies to connect rural populations to specialty medical care, bring the latest medical therapies to patients in remote areas, provide state-of-the-art training for rural hospitals and EMS personnel, and foster incentives for healthcare personnel to train and serve in rural areas. The implementation of the LUCAS device in the Miles City community follows suit to the Helmsley mission.
“Helmsley is committed to improving health outcomes in rural communities and the LUCAS project is the latest in a series of investments to improve the cardiac system of care,” said Walter Panzirer, Trustee for the Helmsley Charitable Trust. “Where you live should never dictate the quality of medical care available, especially in an emergency. LUCAS devices are a proven, effective tool in saving lives during cardiac arrest, and having more of them available in communities such as Miles City improves the access and quality of care in the region.”
SCL Health and the Helmsley Charitable Trust have partnered since 2012 to improve access to healthcare in rural Montana. The trust has invested more than 13 million dollars in major projects with SCL Health to build oncology and cardiovascular care programs in underserved communities in Butte, Billings, and Miles City.