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The issue of Caregiver Exclusion During the COViD-19 Pandemic With Christine Alewine, MD, PHD, of the National Cancer Institute

When the United States was in the early throes of the COVID-19 pandemic, hospitals and health care centers took many steps to decrease risk of COVID-19 transmission for patients who needed health care unrelated to the new coronavirus. The medical community largely cut off visitor access in hospitals and care centers, also cutting off access for friends and family members of patients who act as primary caregivers and play a critical role in communication of health information and continuity of care for patients. This issue is one that particularly affects people undergoing active cancer treatment, a group of oncologists and a patient advocate noted in a recent article in the Journal of Clinical Oncology (2021; doi: 10.1200/JCO.21.00126). “Previously, most patients arrived to clinic with a companion or even a crew of supportive friends and family that packed the examination room and sent our staff scrambling to pillage extra chairs from adjacent rooms to accommodate everyone. Now, patients arrive alone,” the authors noted in the article. The problem is that these companions and supportive friends provide much more than a familiar face to the patient, explained coauthor, Christine Alewine, MD, PhD, Lasker Clinical Research Scholar in the Laboratory of Molecular Biology at the National Cancer Institute's Center for Cancer Research. “Caregivers are an integral part of a cancer patient's team,” she told Oncology Times. “Care suffers in their absence. While there is a risk that exposure of medical staff to the caregiver could lead to an increased risk of COVID-19 transmission, maybe that risk is less critical than the loss of this care team member.” Here are the lessons Alewine believes the oncology community can learn from this pandemic.

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Key Information

Type of Reference
Jour
Type of Work
Question & answer
Publisher
Wolters Kluwer
ISBN/ISSN
0276-2234
Publication Year
2021
Issue Number
12
Journal Titles
Oncology Times
Volume Number
43
Start Page
42