A global survey provides insight into the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on pediatric oncology departments, highlighting staffing shortages, a lack of personal protective equipment (PPE), and provider illness and death. Results from this survey were published in Cancer.1
Researchers sent a 60-item survey, which aimed to enumerate changes to clinical care, resources, and effects on health care providers, to institutions that practiced pediatric cancer care.
Responses were received from 311 individuals across 213 institutions in 79 countries. Sixteen of the institutions also participated in 19 multidisciplinary focus groups. Survey data were collected in June-August 2020, and focus groups were held in September-October 2020.
Most (66%) of the institutions surveyed reported staffing shortages. The most common reasons for this were quarantine (74%) and SARS-CoV-2 infection (60%). Respondents also reported changes in staff roles or responsibility (47%) and moving practitioners outside of their specialty (45%).
Staffing modifications were significantly more likely in countries with a higher incidence of COVID-19 (P <.001) and countries with higher COVID-19-related mortality rates (P =.004).
Half of institutions reported a lack of the minimum PPE needed to prevent SARS-CoV-2 transmission. A lack of PPE was seen across countries, with no differences by income group (P =.463).
Respondents said “many” staff members developed COVID-19, and 8% of respondents reported deaths of staff due to COVID-19.
Nurses were more likely to be affected by COVID-19-related issues compared with other health care providers. Nurses had higher rates of illness, quarantine, and reassignment.
“This survey took place at a relatively early stage of the pandemic, and a follow-up study would certainly provide a different insight,” wrote authors of a related editorial.2 “However, the results presented in this study should not be taken lightly. They reflect a serious risk that can ultimately affect the care of children and compromise the success of their treatment.”
- Sniderman ER, Graetz DE, Agulnik A, et al. Impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on pediatric oncology providers globally: A mixed-methods study. Cancer. Published online January 24, 2022. doi:10.1002/cncr.34090
- Baroni LV, Bouffet E. The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic in pediatric oncology units: A lesson of resilience and hope. Published online January 24, 2022. doi:10.1002/cncr.34089