The COVID-19 pandemic has crippled almost every nation around the world. We’ve witnessed economies slowing down, businesses struggling to survive, and healthcare systems overwhelmed by the unprecedented impact of the pandemic. The impact on individuals is likewise all-encompassing. Very few can say their economic, social, mental and physical well-being were not affected in any way. How much more for the vulnerable? One of the most high-risk groups during the pandemic are the cancer patients.
Those with active cancer are classified as immune-compromised. The risk among cancer patients is based on the type of cancer they have, the type and timing of treatment, underlying health conditions, and the age of the patient.
COVID-19 has also abruptly and radically changed the landscape of cancer care delivery in the country. Most cancer institutes of hospitals scaled down their operations to allow sufficient time for proper patient screening and to comply with social distancing guidelines. At the Philippine General Hospital (PGH) Cancer Institute alone, patient visits to the Medical Oncology Clinic went down by 90% when it re-opened last April 2020.
The missed consultations and treatments may also mean missed opportunities for many patients who would otherwise have a better chance of adding years to life and life to years.
Ensuring the safety and continuity of cancer care amidst the current pandemic and proactive assistance are needed to guide and support patients and caregivers. This includes sharing information on what hospitals and clinics are ready to receive patients for consultation, testing or treatment, how to contact their medical oncologists, and where to seek support throughout their journey.
Hope from Within, an advocacy group dedicated to promoting cancer awareness, together with the Philippine Society of Medical Oncology (PSMO), compiled an infographic which summarizes the list of hospitals nationwide currently accepting cancer inquiries.
Cancer Care Hospitals during COVID
Here are some questions cancer patients, along with their companion or family, can ask:
- How will my treatment regimen be, moving forward? Do we continue, or can we reschedule?
- How many cycles away am I from completion?
- What will be the effects of delaying my therapy?
- What again are my treatment goals? Does delaying therapy still meet those goals?
- Is telehealth (health consultations through telecommunications) an option for me?
When Visiting Hospitals
It is still advisable to limit physical contact and practice social distancing even during the GCQ period, since cancer patients are immuno-compromised, making them more vulnerable or high-risk to get infected by the virus. It is highly recommended to call your oncologists prior to your scheduled check-ups/ treatment appointment to lessen hospital visits. If you are required to go to a hospital, please be extra careful and take preventive measures as well to protect yourself:
- Wear a mask and your personal protective equipment or PPE.
- Always handwash and sanitize. If possible, you may bring your own hygiene kit which includes alcohol, liquid handwash or soap, pocket tissue or wet wipes to avoid further contact with any object in the hospital.
- Avoid the crowd.
- Follow and keep in mind hospital measures.
- Avoid public transportation. As much as possible, have your own service or if you are having a hard time, you may want to check out Cancer Coalition Facebook page for scheduled services. They offer services to cancer patients around the Metro for now.
Resources for Access to Cancer Treatment
Access to cancer treatment is a major challenge that is encountered by all cancer patients. But we do not let their hope subside especially during this tough time. Cancer patients in need of support may seek financial assistance by reaching out to the following:
- Department of Health (DOH) Medical Assistance Program for Cancer
- Office of the President (for guarantee letters)
- Office of the Vice-President (guarantee letters up to Php 5k)
- Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office’s (PCSO) Individual Medical Assistance Program (IMAP)
- Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) Assistance to Individuals in Crisis Situations (DSWD AICS)
- Legislative funds for healthcare (for guarantee letters if in public hospital)
- Local Government Units (mayor’s guarantee letters)
- SSS, GSIS, and Pag-IBIG loans
- Foundations & Private Organizations
Everyone is also highly enjoined to sign the DOH’s Cancer Assistance Fund to Support the National Integrated Cancer Control Act to make quality cancer care accessible to more Filipinos.
Get the right support you need throughout your cancer journey in this time of pandemic. Visit Hope From Within website at https://hopefromwithin.org/ and Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/Hopefromwithinph.