COVID-19: Optimizing Operations of Cancer Centres during the Pandemic

Mahmoudzadeh, Houra | $73,000

Ontario University of Waterloo 2020 NSERC Alliance COVID-19 Grant

The COVID‑19 pandemic has drastically affected the operations of hospitals worldwide. While many non-COVID-related operations are cancelled or postponed to a later date, some need to be continued. Among the most important operations that are continued are treatments for cancer patients who are also among the most vulnerable of the population with regards to the COVID‑19 disease due to their weakened immune system. Several studies suggest that better provisions should be made to reduce the risk of infection for patients with cancer or cancer survivors. This proposal focuses on the impact of the COVID‑19 pandemic on the operations of cancer centres, with the goal of minimizing overall disease transmission, with a particular focus on radiation therapy (RT) departments. Since COVID‑19 can remain asymptomatic for a long time and there is a high probability of disease transmission during this time, it is extremely hard to identify infected patients and normal patient isolation protocols cannot be applied. It is also impossible to test all patients due to capacity and time limitations. The goal of this partnership is to provide simulation, scheduling, and optimization tools that provide guidelines for optimal operations of cancer centres during the COVID‑19 pandemic, under uncertainty in identifying infected patients and staff. Using historical data on patient arrivals, staff schedules, patient care paths, and pandemic progression, we provide insights into what cancer centres need to do under different scenarios of the disease outbreak among current and future cancer patients in the system. The potential outcomes of this study are patient and staff scheduling policies that would minimize the level of disease transmission for patients and staff in a cancer centre, prevent potential outbreaks in such centres, and reduce the risk to cancer patients who are amongst the most vulnerable.

With funding from the Government of Canada

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