- Many healthcare systems will resort to triage systems, hence denying critically ill patients a chance at treatments that could potentially be lifesaving. These patients will be expected to receive palliative care.
- An increase of mortality is to be expected due to the pandemic, particularly with older patients and patients with comorbidities. This will be aggravated by resource scarcity, with some patients being denied certain treatments (ex: mechanical ventilation). Hence, the demand for palliative care will substantially increase.
- Issuing prognosis and predicting outcomes may be difficult, due to limited knowledge on the novel virus, which can have an impact on stress levels among patients, family members and palliative care teams.
- Patients in palliative care may face isolation due to public health control measures (ex: visitor restriction). For this reason, despite social distancing measures, the families of these patients should be offered the occasion to visit their loved ones and say goodbye.
- In some circumstances, patients might be cared for at home instead of in a health facility, in those cases, the necessary support should be provided by nursing professionals and ideally by mobile palliative care (MPC) teams.
- The added pressure on the palliative care system will likely enhance the stress of healthcare workers. On top of the increased workload, they might have to operate in areas often unknown to them. Furthermore, they might feel powerless and unprepared to address their patients’ symptoms. This situation is likely to trigger higher levels of stress and burnouts.
The data comes from 4 viewpoint articles written by medical professionals on the subject of palliative care during a pandemic.
- Arya, A., Buchman, S., Gagnon, B. et al. (March 31, 2020). Pandemic palliative care: beyond ventilators and saving lives. Canadian Medical Association Journal. http://dx.doi.org/10.1503/cmaj.200465.
- Downar, J., & Seccareccia, D. (February 2010). Palliating a Pandemic: “All Patients Must Be Cared For.” Journal of Pain and Symptom Management, 39(2), 291–295. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jpainsymman.2009.11.241.
- Ferguson L, & Barham D. (April 1, 2020). Palliative Care Pandemic Pack: a Specialist Palliative Care Service response to planning the COVID-19 pandemic. Journal of Pain Symptom Management. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jpainsymman.2020.03.026
- Kunz R. & Minder M. (March 24, 2020). COVID-19 pandemic: palliative care for elderly and frail patients at home and in residential and nursing homes. Swiss Medical Weekly. https://doi.org/10.4414/smw.2020.20235 .