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Jansky, Maximiliane; Schade, Franziska; Rieder, Nicola; Lohrmann, Danica; Gebel, Cordula; Kloppenburg, Lars; Wedding, Ulrich; Simon, Steffen T.; Bausewein, Claudia and Nauck, Friedemann (2021): 'It felt like a black hole, great uncertainty, but we have to take care for our patients'-Qualitative findings on the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on specialist palliative home care.
In: PLOS One 16(12), e0260767

Full text not available from 'Open Access LMU'.


Background The COVID-19 pandemic has affected health care systems worldwide. Multidisciplinary teams provide specialist palliative home care (SPHC) for patients with incurable, severe, progressive diseases. These patients are at the same time at high risk, if infected, highly constricted by containment measures, and dependent on support. Aim To explore i) how German SPHC teams were affected by the pandemic during the first wave, ii) which challenges they faced, and iii) which strategies helped to handle the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic for providing good SPHC. Method Four focus groups (with representatives of 18 SPHC teams) and five guided interviews with stakeholders were conducted and analysed using qualitative content analysis. Results Seven key categories emerged from the data. A category in the background describes dependence on organizational characteristics (e.g. sponsorship), which varied by regional factors. Information management was a challenge to SPHC teams, as they had to collect, interpret and adapt, and disseminate information. They reported a shift in patient care because of the COVID-19 pandemic, due to restricted home visits, visitation ban in nursing homes, and difficulties for hospital, hospice and nursing home admissions. Measures to reduce risk of infection impeded teamwork. Teams relied upon their local networks in crisis management, but felt often overlooked by local health authorities. Their respective SPHC state associations supported them in information management and exchange. Discussion The pandemic has severely impacted home care for especially vulnerable seriously ill and dying people. A good network with local health providers and authorities could help to harmonize local regulations and ensure quality care for all patient groups. SPHC teams could play an important role in caring for palliative patients with COVID-19 who are not admitted to a hospital due to preferences or resources.

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