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Over 70% of hospitals in Japan with palliative care units for patients with terminal cancer and other diseases believe that the quality of care has decreased due to the pandemic, a survey by a nonprofit organization showed.

The pandemic has forced hospitals to reduce visits to patients by family members and others to prevent infections, according to Hospice Palliative Care Japan, a nonprofit based in Kanagawa Prefecture.

The March survey covered 376 hospitals and asked them about their measures taken between December and February. Valid responses were collected from 174 hospitals.

About 33% of responding hospitals said that the quality of palliative care has “greatly decreased” due to the pandemic, while 39% said that it has “decreased somewhat.”

Only 25% said that the quality of care has not decreased.

The survey showed that 170 of the 174 hospitals had some type of restrictions on hospital visits.

Some hospitals imposed an all-out ban on visits, including those by family members, while others required visitors to take COVID-19 tests.

“Patients are having a hard time not being able to see their families,” one hospital said.

“The decrease in face-to-face interactions has made it difficult to share information,” another noted.

A respondent said that families were unable to say goodbye to their loved ones.

Hospitals said that they took steps to address the restrictions, including arranging virtual meetings between patients and families.

“Infection prevention measures and visit restrictions need to be reviewed based on the infection situation and the situation of patients and their families,” said Hirofumi Abo, vice president of Hospice Palliative Care Japan. “It should not be decided uniformly by a manual.”

“Hospitals should fully understand the circumstances of each patient and family member, and respond flexibly,” he said.

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