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Published on April 21, 2020

Helmsley Charitable Trust Grants $4.7 Million to Fund Life-Saving Technology to Confront Cardiac Threat from COVID-19 in Avera Facilities


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 health care workers caring for them.

The grant will fund the purchase of 20 LUCAS mechanical chest compression devices for Avera facilities in South Dakota, Iowa, Nebraska and Minnesota.

A total of $4,711,481 in funding will be distributed across five upper-Midwestern states to pay for 367 LUCAS mechanical CPR devices to be deployed to hospitals caring for patients during the pandemic and beyond.

“These devices are vital because we don’t want frontline healthcare workers to choose between trying to save a patient or risking exposure to themselves and others to the Coronavirus,” said Walter Panzirer, a trustee for the Helmsley Charitable Trust. “LUCAS has been a proven, effective tool in saving lives during cardiac arrest, and having more of them available during this pandemic will save even more lives, including those of the doctors, nurses and other health care workers.”

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.

Avera facilities receiving the devices include:

  • Avera McKennan Hospital & University Center, Sioux Falls
  • Avera Queen of Peace Hospital, Mitchell
  • Avera Sacred Heart Hospital, Yankton
  • Avera St. Luke’s Hospital, Aberdeen
  • Avera St. Mary’s Hospital, Pierre
  • Avera Heart Hospital of SD, Sioux Falls
  • Avera Granite Falls Health Center, Granite Falls, Minn.
  • Avera Marshall Regional Medical Center, Marshall, Minn.
  • Avera Holy Family Health, Estherville, Iowa
  • Avera St. Anthony’s Hospital, O’Neill, Neb.

The rise in cardiac complications caused by COVID-19 exposes both patients and healthcare workers to 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.

“Once again, the Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust has demonstrated its commitment to the health of rural facilities across the Avera footprint,” said Avera Medical Group Chief Medical Officer Kevin Post, DO. “Not only will this help save lives, but it will protect our health care workers during this pandemic. We are so grateful for their generosity.”

Mechanical CPR has been adopted by emergency medical responders and many hospitals around the globe, initially due to its ability to deliver extended CPR in compliance with American Heart Association guidelines. Multiple studies have demonstrated equivalence to high-performance CPR, as well as increased provider safety and higher rates of adequate compressions for patients in transport situations. Recently, the Department of Defense COVID-19 Practice Management Guide identified the LUCAS chest compression system as the best practice for managing patients in cardiac arrest to reduce the risk of exposure to care providers.

The Helmsley Charitable Trust is partnering with medical facilities in South Dakota, North Dakota, Montana, Wyoming, and Nebraska to ensure the devices are in place before the peak of COVID-19 hits. The devices will remain in place after the pandemic as part of the hospitals’ cardiac system of care.

“We were able to go from concept to delivery of the devices in two weeks, and that’s been an incredible effort of teamwork with the manufacturer and the hospitals to get them in place ahead of the peak needs,” said Panzirer. “It’s wonderful to see competing entities working together during a national crisis for the good of all.”

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