Cboe Donation Makes a Difference on Chicago’s West Side

September 1, 2021

At the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, Cboe committed $1 million to aiding first responders in the fight against COVID-19. The funding was used to manufacture 70 isolation pods, which provide for the safe transport of patients infected with COVID-19.

The pods, which are produced by Romeoville, IL-based manufacturer, ISOVAC, were distributed to several first responders and healthcare organizations in Chicago, New York and Kansas City, including Sinai Chicago, which operates Mount Sinai Hospital on the city’s West side and received six isolation pods.

Mount Sinai Hospital in Chicago

On March 7, 2020, Mount Sinai’s first COVID-19 patient arrived at the hospital’s emergency room. Very little was known about COVID-19 at the time, except that it was highly contagious and potentially fatal.

“I transported the very first patient myself because I wanted to show my team how we were going to get through this. It was the scariest moment of my life,” says Agnes Eloby, Director of Environmental Services and Patient Transport Services at Sinai Chicago. “Here we are a year and a half later still battling the pandemic, and we have this amazing resource to keep us all safe when transporting patients. It is going to make a huge difference.”

The trip from the ER to the isolation unit is long, Agnes says, increasing the risk of exposure and putting her team in a dangerous position. However, with the isolation pods, Agnes and her team no longer have to worry about exposing themselves or anyone else when transporting a COVID-19 patient.

“I immediately felt so much more comfortable just knowing the pods were coming before they even arrived,” she says. “It was such a relief to show the team pictures, to let them know that there are people thinking of us and help is coming.”

As the city’s largest private safety net, Sinai Chicago provides vital care to people from Chicago’s under-resourced communities, but it does not benefit from large endowments or ample resources that are common at other nationally-ranked hospitals in the city. As a result, monetary and in-kind donations are essential to keeping Sinai’s services going.

“In-kind donations from companies like Cboe truly helped us save lives and will continue to help us save lives,” says Rachael Marusarz, Vice President, Development/Chief Development Officer at Sinai Chicago. “We serve more than 100,000 people per year across our hospitals and clinics and every donation helps us put more money behind paying for caregivers and additional equipment, all of which ensures our patients and caregivers are safe.”

According to Rachael, less than 15 percent of Sinai Chicago’s patient population has access to private health insurance, more than half are reliant on Medicaid and about a quarter to a third rely on Medicare. This automatically creates barriers to healthcare that make it challenging for patients to receive the quality of care they need. Additionally, Sinai’s patient population suffers from a higher rate of comorbidities, the presence of two or more chronic conditions, putting them at even greater risk during the pandemic.

“At Sinai, we believe the quality of the healthcare you get shouldn’t be a product of what your zip code is,” says Dan Regan, Vice President, Communications, PR and Marketing at Sinai Chicago. “A primary element of our mission is to address the health inequities in our communities. Cboe’s donation helps us fulfill that mission.”

Fortunately, there are plenty of good citizens in the Chicago area that are helping Sinai Chicago fulfil its mission through monetary and in-kind donations. As the pandemic surged, all types of donations came pouring in, from different technologies and personal protective equipment (PPE) to food and everything in between.

“We received so many wonderful, much-needed donations from individuals and companies alike,” says Susan Campbell, Development Director at Sinai Chicago. “But one of my favorites was the group of high school students who used their 3D printer to produce face shields. These were just teenagers, pumping out shields 24 hours a day simply because they knew how to and we needed help.”

The health system also received iPad donations, which proved to be a crucial resource for keeping isolated patients connected to their families. Previously, hospital staff used baby monitors to connect with these patients on the other side of the door. Caregivers would then video call families from their personal phones so they could see their loved ones through the baby monitor.

“People assume everyone has a smartphone and can keep in touch with family but most of our patients do not have smartphones and have no way of seeing or talking to family,” Agnes says.

“Sometimes even the simplest solution can make such a profound impact on care,” says Rachael. “We always have to be very strategic about how we invest our resources and new technology and we never take it for granted.”

As a result of their creativity and the generosity of donors, the team says they feel more prepared to continue battling the pandemic as cases climb back up. And, once the pandemic is finally over, they’ll use the isolation pods for other airborne illnesses, allowing Cboe’s donation to have a lasting impact on Sinai Chicago and the community it serves.

“There have been plenty of ‘Heroes Work Here’ signs in front of hospitals since the start of the pandemic, but it’s contributions like this that make the work of our heroes possible,” Dan says. “I hope Cboe associates take this to heart and feel proud of working for a company like Cboe that is doing something to truly take care of people on the front lines.”