Organizational issues of home parenteral nutrition during COVID-19 pandemic: Results from multicenter, nationwide study

Nutrition. 2021 Feb 13;86:111202. doi: 10.1016/j.nut.2021.111202. Online ahead of print.


Objectives: Patients on home parenteral nutrition (HPN) are prone to severe complications of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) infection. The pandemic requires adaptation of the health care standards, including epidemiologic surveillance, logistics of home supply, and monitoring. Potential lack of medical professionals may worsen the standard of care. The aim of this study was to evaluate the medical staff resources in HPN units.

Results: The study was conducted by major Polish scientific societies in clinical nutrition. A questionnaire was distributed among all Polish adult HPN centers concerning statistics from the first 3 mo of the pandemic (March through May 2020). Data on medical staff resources and organizational issues of the units were collected. Modifications of the home procedures, SARS-CoV-2 infection rates of HPN patients and health care workers (HCW) were analyzed. Influence of the pandemic on the rates of new qualifications for home artificial nutrition (HAN) was estimated. Fourteen of 17 adult Polish HPN units took part in the study. The point prevalence of HPN in Poland was 30.75/1 million citizens. Of HCWs, 344 were involved in patient care in Polish HPN units; 18.9% were physicians (49% surgeons, 18.46% internal medicine specialists, 15.38% anesthesiologists, 7.69% pediatricians, 1.54% palliative care specialists), 32.27% nurses, 5.23% dietitians, 9.01% pharmacists, 4.94% pharmacy technicians, 3.2% pharmacy assistants, 5.81% administrative workers, 3.49% physiotherapists. HAN patient-to-HCW ratios for physicians, nurses, pharmacists, dietitians were 49.5, 29.15, 111.6, and 181.6, respectively. Medium ages of physicians and nurses were 45.6 and 44.15 y, respectively. Slightly less than half (53.8%) of physicians and 31.53% of nurses worked parallelly in hospital wards. Thirty-one pharmacists overall were working in all HPN units (2.21 per unit) as were 18 dietitians (1.3 per unit). Nine patients had a confirmed COVID-19 infection (four HPN, five home enteral nutrition). All the units introduced telemedicine solutions in the first months of the pandemic. The number of new qualifications for HPN and home enteral nutrition in the units did not significantly decline from March through May in comparison with a similar period in 2019.

Conclusions: A shortage of HPN medical professionals requires attention when planning health care organization, especially during a pandemic. Severe restrictions in public health systems may not reduce the number of new qualifications for the HPN procedure. There is a need for the continuation of data collection during the evolution of the pandemic as it may have a detrimental effect on HPN including serious issues with access to professional HCWs.

Keywords: COVID-19; Health care workers; Home enteral nutrition; Home parenteral nutrition; Human resources; Pandemic.