Purpose: To compare the number of radiotherapy treatments delivered to patients at two departments at an epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic. One is a public safety-net hospital serving a socioeconomically disadvantaged and under-insured population. The other is a private hospital serving patients with private insurance.
Methods: On March 11, 2020, the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a global pandemic. Considering the response to COVID-19, the number of External Beam Radiation Therapy (EBRT) and Gynecologic High-Dose-Rate (HDR) brachytherapy treatments delivered between May 2020 and Feb 2021 (during pandemic) was compared to treatments delivered between May 2019 to Feb 2020 (pre pandemic). We also reported differences in patient access to telemedicine, COVID-19 screening, and clinical trials at the two centers.
Results: At the safety-net hospital, there were 8291 EBRT treatments pre-pandemic and 7475 during the pandemic, which reflects a10% decrease. At the private hospital, the numbers were 10662 and 8231 respectively, a 23% decrease. At the safety-net hospital, the HDR treatments were 45, 32, 26 for cylinder, interstitial, tandem-and-ovoid respectively pre pandemic and 38, 14, 56 during the pandemic. The total number of HDR treatments were 103 and 108 respectively. The decrease in interstitial therapy was balanced by an increase in hybrid tandem-and-ovoid with needles when needed. For the private hospital, Gyn HDR increased from 14 to 32, likely due to detrimental impact of treatment delay on Gyn cancers. During the pandemic, clinical trials were administratively paused at the safety-net hospital to allow for reassignment of resources directed to the care of critically ill COVID-19 patients. The private center enrolled 9 patients during the pandemic, same number as pre-pandemic.
Conclusion: Our analysis demonstrates that the COVID-19 pandemic did not disproportionally affect patients’ accessibility to RT at a safety-net hospital versus a private hospital. However, access to clinical trials was severely impacted.