EuroPCR 2021: Interventional cardiologists sound the alarm over silent impact of the pandemic

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Christoph Naber and William Wijns

Interventional cardiologists from across the globe are joining forces for a campaign reinforcing the crucial message that patients with heart disease should, by all means, continue seeking timely cardiac care, and access to cardiovascular services that has been restricted due to the COVID-19 pandemic needs to be re-established with every emphasis.

The campaign, titled We CARE, is a joint effort by PCR and Stent‒Save a Life!, a global initiative aiming at improving patient access to the lifesaving indication of primary percutaneous coronary intervention (p-PCI).

Initiated by Christoph Naber (Wilhelmshaven, Germany) and William Wijns (Galway, Ireland), chairmen of Stent‒Save a Life! and PCR respectively, We CARE is seeking to establish itself as a grassroots campaign with messaging delivered globally on a local level via national or regional advocates.

The initiative has a core aim to re-establish patient confidence in accessing cardiac healthcare services in the wake of the pandemic, as well as establishing a broader network of lobbying to politicians, healthcare stakeholders, and patient organisations on the importance of maintaining access to cardiovascular healthcare facilities in future.

“We noticed very early on in 2020 patients being afraid of seeking care when they had symptoms out of fear of being contaminated,” Wijns tells Cardiovascular News discussing the impact that the pandemic has had on cardiovascular care. “Close to 50% of patients with acute cardiovascular disease who would have required treatments have been left behind and, in many patients coming late, severe complications were observed, which were rarely seen in recent years” he adds.

To address this, Naber says that the campaign’s message is twofold. First is the direct outreach to patients and primary care providers. “We need to tell them it is much safer to be treated than just to stay away,” he explains. “If you have a myocardial infarction and if you do not go to the hospital or seek medical attention too late, your likelihood of a severe complication or death is high. Much higher than the risk of becoming infected with COVID-19 in a controlled environment. We need our patients to understand that treatment for heart disease cannot wait.”

Secondly, the campaign will seek to reach out on a political level to ensure that healthcare providers are adequately prepared to deal with any future pandemics or major crises that could impact the provision of or access to care as it did this time. “We need to tell them that in the future, if something like this comes, we need to be better prepared, the tolls for the individual, but also for the society are high” Naber comments.

“We want to speak up and talk to the decision makers, healthcare providers, national ministers of health, and at an EU level,” says Wijns. “We are going to give them the numbers on the impact of removing care that exists. And, of course, that is another impetus to also encourage access in those areas.”

Among the resources available—and to be released—to participants are media kits containing posters and flyers, guidelines and tools to help healthcare professionals prevent procedure postponement, ensure the preparedness of healthcare systems, and encourage them to accelerate the implementation of telemedicine.


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