COVID-19 forces Fla. radiation oncologist to postpone care

By Brian Casey, staff writer

August 26, 2021 -- A news report from Florida highlights how the COVID-19 pandemic is affecting patients with other diseases. A radiation oncologist in Tampa was forced to turn away a transfer patient because his hospital was full of patients sick from COVID-19.

Dr. Nitesh Paryani told Chris Cuomo of CNN that a nearby hospital wanted to transfer a patient with metastatic brain cancer to a facility with better treatment options. Paryani is the founder and medical director of Tampa Oncology and Proton, which offers proton therapy in the west Florida and Tampa Bay region.

But Paryani said they were forced to reject the transfer "because there was simply no room in the hospital to treat the patient." Paryani went on to say that the delta variant of SARS-CoV-2 is "ripping through the hospitals" and causing "unimaginable" strain on healthcare providers.

Florida has about 17% of all hospitalizations in the U.S. due to COVID-19, despite only having 6.5% of the U.S. population, according to the CNN article. Over 17,000 people in Florida are currently hospitalized due to COVID-19.

Paryani also authored an August 21 opinion article in the Washington Post, in which he expanded on his experience and noted that most of the patients being hospitalized are unvaccinated. The patient with brain cancer "was unable to walk, and without urgent radiation treatments there was no hope for any meaningful recovery," he said in his article.

Paryani's hospital had no beds available, and 90% of those hospitalized with COVID-19 were unvaccinated. The hospital had paused elective surgeries the previous week, he said.

"For the first time in my career, I had to say no," Paryani noted in his editorial.

What's more, Paryani said his practice is seeing more advanced cancers than before the pandemic, which he attributed to patients staying away from hospitals and postponing screening exams.

Paryani closed his article by noting that providers eventually were able to find a facility for the patient that had bed space. But he said the pressure on the healthcare system could easily be prevented if more people simply got the COVID-19 vaccine.

Copyright © 2021

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