Patients’ and Caregivers’ Perception of Safety and Accessibility of Cancer Care During the COVID-19 Pandemic: A Survey in a Tertiary Academic Cancer Center in the Philippines


Background: The COVID-19 pandemic has caused a global public health emergency. High levels of fear and limited access to cancer treatment may jeopardize the delivery of optimal oncologic care, potentially influencing treatment outcomes. This study aimed to identify patients’ and their caregivers’ perception of safety and accessibility of cancer care during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Methods: A cross-sectional survey of patients and caregivers at the Benavides Cancer Institute, University of Santo Tomas Hospital was performed from August to October 2020 using a 20-item investigator-developed questionnaire.

Results: A total of 207 participants answered the survey. Frequency of hospital visits varied from none to more than ten times in the previous month; but having multiple postponements were uncommon. Eighty-two percent, 77%, 62%, and 55% of participants reported being afraid of contracting COVID-19 from other patients, hospital surroundings, hospital staff, and doctors, respectively. Twenty-six percent and 12% had difficulty finding transportation and passing through checkpoints, respectively. Twenty-eight percent strongly expressed financial limitations in prioritizing cancer care. Participants were amenable to the use of telemedicine and stringent protocols to reduce in-hospital transmission risk, but had some reluctance to spend out of their pockets for screening tests.

Conclusion: The perceived safety of cancer care was influenced by fears of contracting COVID-19; and accessibility was influenced by limited transportation and financial constraints. Despite these, multiple postponements and cancelled hospital visits were uncommon. Institutional approaches targeting these concerns will be crucial to ensure safe and timely delivery of cancer care during the COVID-19 pandemic and further mitigate its impact on oncologic outcomes.

Key words: cancer care, COVID-19 pandemic, safety, accessibility

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