A survey by the Public Defender’s Office (DP-RJ) in partnership with the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ) detected a 25% reduction in cancer-related surgeries since the beginning of the covid-19 pandemic. Cancer treatments, with the exception of radiotherapy, chemotherapy and surgery, fell 24.8%.
Outpatient visits for these patients were reduced by 21.9% in the first quarter of the pandemic, compared to the previous quarter.
Data are in the document Oncology Assistance in the State of Rio de Janeiro during the Covid-19 pandemic carried out by the Coordination of Health and Collective Guardianship of DP-RJ and the Institute of Collective Health Studies at UFRJ.
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The study also verified the absence of health professionals during the first trimester, reduced referrals to health units, increased absence of patients in chemotherapy sessions and the need to change the protocol due to the lack of medication.
For data collection, an online questionnaire was designed and sent to the units that make up the highly complex oncology network of the Unified Health System (SUS) in the state of Rio.
The data requested in the questionnaire refer to the quarter prior to the pandemic (December/2019, January and February 2020) and to the first quarter of the pandemic (March, April and May 2020).
There was a percentage of leave of 14.6% of doctors, 15.5% of nurses, 22.7% of nursing technicians, 12.5% of nursing assistants and 26.5% of other professionals in the period.
In the total of all categories surveyed, it was seen a departure of 20.4% of professionals allocated in specialized oncology units during the period from March to May 2020.
According to the Public Defender’s Office and the UFRJ, these leaves may have generated a reduction in the supply of oncology services, the need to relocate specialist oncology professionals to other functions, decrease in administrative activities of feeding a database to record activities and fundraising, between others.
The lack of supply of Docetaxel, a drug used for the treatment of breast cancer, by four health units (26.6% of the units) was also mentioned in the answers; in addition to analgesics (6.7%) and anesthetics (6.7%), both mentioned by only one unit each.
Among the 15 units that responded to the questionnaire, 80% claimed to have a Contingency Plan created to deal with the new coronavirus in the unit, while 20% of representatives of units were unable to respond.
The plans were requested to be sent to the Defender’s Office, but only eight (66.6%) of the twelve units that claimed to have at the time of writing the report were received.
Lack of vacancies
The study also shows the shortcomings in providing adequate treatment for people with cancer before the pandemic.
Surveys carried out by the Regional Council of Medicine of Rio de Janeiro (Cremerj) between the years 2016 and 2019 consolidated in the survey show that palliative care beds do not exist in 88% of the units, being offered according to demand.
Regarding cancer beds, 44% of the units said they did not have any specific bed for oncology cases, being offered according to demand; and 13 establishments reported having specific beds, with a median of 20 beds per health unit, ranging from 6 to 77 beds.
Source: BoF Rio de Janeiro
Edition: Eduardo Miranda