The COVID-19 pandemic challenged palliative care (PC) services globally. We studied the ways healthcare professionals (HCPs) working in faith-based hospitals (FBHs) experienced and adapted care through the pandemic, and how this impacted patients with PC needs.
In-depth interviews were conducted with HCPs from FBHs serving rural and urban population across India. Thematic analysis was conducted.
A total of 10 in-depth interviews were conducted during the COVID-19 pandemic, first wave (4), second wave (4) and between them (2). HCPs described fear and stigma in the community early in the pandemic. Migrant workers struggled, many local health services closed and cancer care was severely affected. Access and availability of healthcare services was better during the second wave. During both waves, FBHs provided care for non-COVID patients, earning community appreciation. For HCPs, the first wave entailed preparation and training; the second wave was frightening with scarcity of hospital beds, oxygen and many deaths. Eight of the 10 FBHs provided COVID-19 care. PC teams adapted services providing teleconsultations, triaging home visits, delivering medications, food at home, doing online teaching for adolescents, raising funds. Strengths of FBHs were dedicated teamwork, staff care, quick response and adaptations to community needs, building on established community relationship.
FBHs remained open and continued providing consistent, good quality, person-centred care during the pandemic. Challenges were overcome innovatively using novel approaches, often achieving good outcomes despite limited resources. By defining and redefining quality using a PC lens, FBHs strengthened patient care services.