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Covid-19: what are the consequences for Institut Curie patients from overseas?

Interview with Dr. Pierre Anhoury, Director of International Relations at Institut Curie
Pierre Anhoury

As an international cancer center, Institut Curie regularly welcomes patients from all over the world, drawn by the quality and innovative spirit of the care protocols. The spread of the pandemic and the confinement measures implemented in France have required patient accommodation to be adapted, while ensuring that patients are protected and providing continuity of therapeutic care. Dr. Pierre Anhoury, Director of International Relations at Institut Curie, explains these changes.

Mandatory confinement became official on March 17. How did you manage international patients who were undergoing treatment?

On the day that confinement became mandatory, 121 foreign patients were undergoing treatment at Institut Curie. In agreement with the Hospital Group management, we have met all our commitments and continued to deliver care.

The embassies were informed, along with the military offices that track their populations closely, and that planned to interrupt treatment and repatriate their citizens. Our team maintained a continuous dialog with each patient and with all diplomatic bodies concerned.

The physicians and medical assistants at Institut Curie carefully avoided postponing the 345 procedures planned, in order to limit the duration of a stay which is already quite costly for these patients who are thousands of miles from home. Remote consultations were set up according to situations and patients were informed by the team from the international relations division of the new procedures put in place by the hospital (patients may not be accompanied, face masks must be worn, travel is permitted only with an official waiver, etc.).

Our partner C3Medical, Institut Curie’s concierge service for foreign patients, continues its daily support. The team spends one day a week on each of the Saint-Cloud and Paris sites. Each patient continues to be monitored closely.  

Since confinement began, how have you managed new requests from foreign cancer patients requesting our help?

During the month of March, 77 new foreign patients contacted us and uploaded their patient records to our web platform. The first three countries to contact us these past few days have been Algeria, Romania and Kuwait. Some were seeking a second opinion and others were asking to come and receive care at Institut Curie. The confinement was accompanied by an order from the ARS (regional health agency) to no longer receive foreign patients. Each new request was therefore carefully analyzed and handled. We took action for each of them in order to limit lost opportunities.

Some patients who needed to receive treatment quickly were directed to contacts or former students from Institut Curie practising in the patient’s home country.

In four exceptional cases of rare cancers that are complex to treat, we brought these patients to Institut Curie to treat them. For example, a 19-year-old Canadian woman suffering from Burkitt lymphoma received emergency surgery this week and is returning to Ottawa to continue her treatment via medication.

For patients whose cases are not urgent, and who could benefit from treatment at Institut Curie, we are completing their file so that everything will be ready when they are able to travel.

What is happening with the international partner institutions of Institut Curie during this period?

The major partner oncology centers, such as King Hussein Cancer Center in Amman, or the AC Camargo cancer center in Sao Paolo very quickly asked to share our COVID-19 protocols and organization rules in order to learn from our decisions. This is an exchange of best practices.

Our international travel has been suspended. But we are preparing for return to operation by conducting telephone conferences with our contacts. We discuss projects and prepare our strategy in a crisis cell. Several projects will be implemented as soon as we are able to travel again. The target countries are Colombia, Kazakhstan, China and Taiwan.