COVID-19 Survey Results
By Alison Ramsey
IAHPC Newsletter Editor
The deep impact of the COVID-19 crisis on global delivery of palliative care services — and those who provide them — was evidenced in the 79 responses to a survey of IAHPC members conducted recently.
This is a report on the quantitative part of the survey prepared by Dr. Tania Pastrana, IAHPC research adviser. Input by respondents will be the focus of articles in upcoming issues of the newsletter. [Also, see the August Policy & Advocacy column, which answers respondents’ questions on how IAHPC can help.]
The survey was emailed to 975 members. The 79 respondents are from 41 countries, of which 34% are defined as high income by the World Bank and 32% are low or middle income; 86% of respondents directly provide patient care.
The Americas accounted for 30% of responses, followed by Africa (22%), and the Western Pacific region (20%). The fewest responses were from the Eastern Mediterranean region (4%).
One-third of respondents were currently caring for patients with COVID. Many felt very competent (19, or 30%) or somewhat competent (40, or 64%) in providing care to patients with COVID. However, no statistical significance was linked to respondents’ feeling of safety: nine (16%) did not feel safe at all, while 39 (70%) felt only somewhat safe.
Fully 81% of respondents reported that the pandemic affected the palliative care of non-COVID patients. Resources were strained; some palliative care services were reduced or suspended, and some clinics closed as attention focused on COVID patients.
On the other hand, it was an opportunity for others, as development of palliative care services was fast-tracked in some countries, and one respondent noted that resources and capacity for palliative care had increased.
Health systems provided “a little” support to enable access to palliative care, according to 17 (23%) of respondents. Ten (14%) reported “none at all.” A great deal or a lot of support was reported by 23 (31%), with moderate support for 21 (28%).
Furthermore, staff screening for COVID was spotty; staff were not always tested until patients were symptomatic. Personal protective equipment (PPE) was insufficient for 22 (28%) of respondents, and non-existent for two (2.5%) respondents. It was adequate for 24 (30%), and appropriate for 21 (27%)].
Palliative care staff suffered significant loss of work due to the pandemic; 56 respondents (71%) were somewhat or highly affected due to being put on furlough, becoming sick, being in lockdown, etc.
The usual job or role of 84% of respondents was “somewhat” or “highly” affected, and educational activities virtually ceased for many [highly affected, 43 (54%); somewhat affected, 24 (30%)].
The level of communication with health authorities was zero for nine respondents (12%), while a combined 55 (74%) respondents received either a moderate amount, a lot, or a great deal of communication.
More than half of respondents (52%) reported no effect on access to medicines for pain relief, while 11 (14%) were highly affected. PPE was limited in several countries, but some rallied after an initial bottleneck.
An analysis of the qualitative information relayed by respondents is being used to prepare a research paper for publication.