Through funding from the Surrey Hospitals Foundation and the Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research, a COVID-19 clinical research team has been created in Surrey.
Dr. Kate Keetch, the director of Evaluation and Research Services at Fraser Health, said there has been “a lot of interest to do research within the health authority” as Fraser Health has the most cases, both active and archived, in the province.
By Tuesday (Dec. 8), Fraser Health has 6,924 of the 9,315 active cases. Since the start of the pandemic, the health authority has had 24,558 of the total 38,718 cases in B.C.
Keetch said her department was “inundated” with submissions for projects that researches wanted to take, “both internal to Fraser Health and external.”
“Through that, it made me sort of have to take a look at our operational feasibility of getting research up and running,” she explained.
“Because Surrey Memorial Hospital was one of the coordinating centres for COVID-19, it was very popular and a lot of research proposals were asking to use Surrey Memorial Hospital as a site.”
She added there are more than 30 research studies, and 21 of those involve SMH.
Keetch said she realized that while there was “some support and research staff,” there wasn’t enough.
“There was definitely a gap there, and room for improvement and more capacity.”
From there, Keetch said she approached Jane Adams, the president and CEO of the Surrey Hospitals Foundation. And then the Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research came on board.
Both foundations have given grants of $150,000 toward “enhancing COVID-19 research initiatives and capacity to advance innovative life-saving protocols and interventions in Surrey,” according to a release from SHF.
With the funding, Keetch said they’ve been able to hire a clinical research nurse, a clinical research coordinator and research assistant “all with the mandate, and the mission, to support COVID research within Surrey Memorial Hospital.”
“First and foremost, research is critical in the pandemic response,” she noted.
“Even outside of the pandemic response, research is so important for generating that evidence-based knowledge that can change the dial and improve experience and quality of life for patients, improve the health-care system. Research plays a central role in that.”
In addition to the clinical research team, the SHF, along with $25,000 in seed funding from TELUS Friendly Future Foundation, are helping to fund at COVID-19 research studu on the viability of a virtual rehabilitation.
It is led by Dr. Greg Haljan, head of the critical care department at SMH and regional medical director for research for Fraser Health.
“A lot of the attention in the research that’s being done is in the now, and what’s the impact on individuals when they get COVID,” said Keetch.
”But he’s thinking about, ‘OK, the journey’s not over once you have COVID.’ Because COVID’s so new, we don’t know what’s going to happen sort of after the fact.
The study is will examine “whether a multi-disciplinary virtual recovery program providing pulmonary rehabilitation for COVID-19 survivors improves rehospitalization, patient quality of life and health outcomes.”
“Research has shown that 17 per cent survivors of similar critical illnesses, including SARS and influenza etc., are re-admitted to hospital within one month of discharge, 30 per cent by three months and 40 per cent by six months, and COVID-19 numbers could be very similar,” said Haljan.
“We need to prevent the onset of COVID-19 hospital re-admissions by developing a patient-centric, virtual critical care rehabilitation program led by critical care physicians and experts.”
The release adds that previous research “indicates that early mobility and rehabilitation, after being discharged from hospital, reduce mortality and acute care utilization in multiple critical illness survivor cohorts
“Even 14 days of quarantine without hospitalization impacts fitness and mobility. Pulmonary rehabilitation improves the full spectrum of cardiopulmonary, cardiovascular, neuromuscular, and mental health domains, including surprisingly, depression, anxiety and cognition.”