Oncological rehabilitation is an important pillar in the treatment of cancer patients. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this form of therapy is particularly challenged, as it relies heavily on group therapies. The aim of the study was to find out what impact the pandemic has had on oncological rehabilitation so far and how the rehabilitation clinics have dealt with it.
A web-based survey was used to collect data from 14 oncological rehabilitation clinics on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on occupancy, staffing trends, and hygiene measures for the observation period from March 1, 2020, to February 28, 2021. The data were compared with the same period 1 year earlier. In addition, the compensatory measures taken with regard to therapy were recorded.
While only 15,272 patients were rehabilitated in the period under review, 21,257 patients were rehabilitated in the same period 1 year earlier. This corresponds to a decrease in occupancy of 28%. Three clinics were affected by temporary closures due to the pandemic. In 39% of the clinics, screening tests for patients had already been started for more than 8 months, while this was also offered to staff in only 23% of the clinics. With regard to changes in the therapeutic offer, more physiotherapeutic small groups with a reduced number of participants were used. This was also used in the area of sports therapy and education offers by 73% and 60% of the clinics, respectively. Overall, 92% of the participants assumed an economic recovery at the time of the survey.
Despite a considerable decrease in occupancy in the oncological rehabilitation clinics, the therapies could be changed and carried out in a hygiene-compliant manner. Screening tests were offered at an early stage for patients as well as somewhat delayed for staff. The data show that pandemic-consistently changes in oncological rehabilitation are possible and that supply chains can be maintained.