COVID 19 vaccination and cancer

Important scientific information for cancer patients and care professionals about the COVID-19 vaccine:

On 22 December 2020, European guidelines were developed regarding the vaccination of oncology patients against COVID-19.

  • Vaccination is strongly RECOMMENDED and is VERY SAFE for patients with hematological and oncological conditions, and who are in treatment currently or who have been in treatment within the past five years. Patients undergoing immunotherapy are also RECOMMENDED to get the vaccine. All of these patients have a weakened immune system and run the risk of becoming seriously infected.
  • There are NO contraindications for the vaccination. Given the limited capacity for vaccination, patients may get vaccinated according to the scheduled time, regardless of their chemotherapy schedule. The best time to get vaccinated is between two treatments.

There are a number of EXCEPTIONS:

  • Patients who are getting an allogenic transplant have to wait until three months after the transplant before getting the vaccine.
  • Patients who are getting an autologous transplant have to wait until three months after the transplant before getting the vaccine.
  • Patients who receive intravenous immunoglobulins (e.g. Privigen) are advised to get vaccinated the week before the treatment.
  • Some people have had an allergic reaction to other vaccines. These people should not be vaccinated.

Limited side effects of the vaccine are possible. You may always take Parcetamol for any flu-like symptoms (max. 4 g/day). Contact the hospital if you have fever.

The bottom line is: get vaccinated. The timing will be determined for each patient individually and depends on the therapy regimen. Talk with your treating oncologist about it and encourage your friends and family to get vaccinated.

Even if you are already vaccinated, you must still follow the general guidelines:

  • Maintain physical distancing
  • Wear a mask
  • Practice proper hand hygiene

COVID-19: FAQ

Extra tip: try to avoid touching your face as much as possible!

May someone accompany me to keep me company during my treatment at the day hospital?

As of Wednesday 9 June, one person is allowed to accompany the patient to the day hospital. Everyone must abide by the applicable hygiene measures and wear a mask the entire time they are at the hospital. CO2 measurements are taken at regular intervals for monitoring purposes.

May I bring someone with me to the consultation with the oncologist-haematologist?

One person is allowed to accompany the patient during the consultation.

Of course, if the person accompanying the patient has symptoms of cough, shortness of breath, sore throat, muscle pain or fever, then he or she cannot come with you to our hospital. We ask the patient, as well as the person accompanying the patient, to always wear a mask and to abide by the hygiene measures.

May visitors come while I am hospitalised at the care ward?

Patients on wards are currently not allowed to receive visitors. For more information, please go to the general hospital website.

Do I need to wear a mask during my treatment in the day hospital?

Everybody entering the hospital must wear a mask More information can be found at‘Protect Yourself and Each Other: Appointments’

Will my blood be drawn?

  • Blood drawing related to IV chemotherapy on day -1:we ask patients to firstcome to the consultation with the physician at the day hospital and only afterwards go to the laboratory for a blood draw.
  • Blood draws for patients with perioral therapy: patients who previously came in for a blood draw in the laboratory at our main campus one or two days beforehand will now have their laboratory draw done at home. The oncology coaches will keep their patients informed by telephone. We ask that patients be available at home from 7.30am to 4:30pm.

Does anything change if my chemotherapy is administered as part of a scheduled admission to the care ward?

We ask that patients with a scheduled admission for chemotherapy at the Hospitalisation Department contact the Oncology and Therapy Day Hospital before 9:30am the day before their admission to receive any information from the physician and to have a COVID swab done.

Can I still see my oncology psychologist?

The psychological services continue to be available for patients at the day hospital or for admitted patients.

Which oncology patients run an increased risk?

Cancer patients who are being treated with chemotherapy (up to and including six weeks after the most recent treatment) have lowered defences, which means they run an increased risk of a serious illness if they were to be infected with the COVID-19 virus. If you have fever, a sore throat, cough, muscle pain or shortness of breath, please contact the Oncology Team or your GP. You are advised to STRICTLY follow the government's recommendations.

Cancer patients who are being treated with immunotherapy (up to and including six weeks after the most recent treatment) run an increased risk of lung problems, and, potentially, of a serious illness if they were to be infected with the COVID-19 virus. If you have fever, a sore throat, cough, muscle pain or shortness of breath, please contact the Oncology Team or your GP. You are advised to STRICTLY follow the government's recommendations.

Cancer patients who are being treated with targeted anti-cancer medication (up to and including six weeks after the most recent treatment) have lowered defences, which means they run an increased risk of a serious illness if they were to be infected with the COVID-19 virus. If you have fever, a sore throat, cough, muscle pain or shortness of breath, please contact the oncology team or your GP. You are advised to STRICTLY follow the government's recommendations.

What should I do if I have a cough, sore throat, muscle pain or fever?

Do you have fever, a sore throat, muscle pain or a cough? In that case, do not come to the hospital, even if you have a scheduled treatment. First contact the ICG secretariat on +32 (0)9 246 95 22. In consultation with the care team, a decision will be made about whether your treatment can be still be administered.

I have coagulation problems, a blood platelet problem or increased risk of thrombosis. Can I get vaccinated?

Yes, persons with coagulation problems, a blood platelet problem or an increased risk of thrombosis can be vaccinated. The advantages of vaccination are many times greater than their disadvantages. The Belgian Society on Thrombosis and Haemostasis also recommends vaccination. More information can be found on their website: https://bsth.be/covid19-resources.

Do you still have questions? First contact the ICG secretariat on +32 (0)9 246 95 22.

Take a look at the hospital's general websitefor additional information

What is cancer?

The smallest building block in the human body is the cell. Each cell has a specific job and a determined lifespan. When a body's cell is damaged or is too old and is no longer functioning normally, it dies and is replaced by a new cell. This is how an organ's normal activity is preserved.

Sometimes, a cell behaves abnormally, and it begins to multiply uncontrollably, forming a mass or tumour. A tumour can be benign, but if it develops the trait of absorbing adjacent healthy cells, then we call it a malignant tumour, or cancer. Cancer cells can spread in the human body (by lymph vessels or blood vessels, for example) and form new tumours in other organs (metastases). Cancer is the result of a deep and complex functional disorder of certain cells.

Depending on the type of cancer, you will, as a patient, come in to contact with various specialists. An overview of all the physicians who are associated with our cancer centre can be found at contact page.

To the Oncology Day Hospital

Most oncology treatment is administered on an outpatient basis (e.g. without being admitted). The Maria Middelares General Hospital has an Oncology and Therapy Day Hospital for this reason.

Important notice:

As of Wednesday 9 June, one person is allowed to accompany the patient to the Oncology and Therapy Day Hospital Day Hospital. Everyone must abide by the applicable hygiene measures and wear a mask the entire time they are at the hospital.

What to bring

Documents

  • Identification Card
  • Blood type card
  • Name and telephone number for one contact person

Personal

  • If applicable, the medication that you take during the day
  • Comfortable clothing (you do not need to bring toiletries, pyjamas and/or a robe)
  • Something to read: a book, a magazine
  • Valuables or large amounts of money are better left at home (our hospital is not responsible for loss or theft)

Process

Registration

Always register at the reception desk for the Oncology and Therapy Day Hospital. You can best reach the reception desk by entering gate A on the ground floor.

You do not need to come having fasted, unless otherwise indicated. You can simply eat breakfast in the morning. The treatment will be started after drawing a blood sample. Depending on the blood test result and the physician authorisation, the treatment will start the next day. While the cytostatica is being administered, we will not leave the department.

Your stay

  • All the rooms are equipped with a radio and television. You may also use your mobile in the day hospital.
  • Your partner or a family member is welcome to come to the day hospital. We keep the number of people limited to keep the space calm and quiet for everyone.
  • Patients from the Oncology and Therapy Day Hospital receive a (free) meal. The meal is offered only upon your request.
  • During your admission, you may expect a visit from the attending physician in order to discuss any problems you may be having and/or to receive prescriptions for any required medication. How long exactly you need to stay at the day hospital depends on the administration schedule for the scheduled chemotherapy and can vary from a few hours to a full day.

Discharge

As soon as all the scheduled care has been administered, you may leave the hospital. Before you leave, stop by the reception desk of the Oncology and Therapy Day Hospital to book an appointment for the next treatment or check-up. After a visit to the day hospital, you may drive a vehicle, unless otherwise agreed upon.

Financial information

The invoice will be sent at the end of the month following your treatment:

  • Chemotherapy is, in principle, free.
  • A copayment is charged for other additional medications, care materials and any additional tests required (X-rays, large blood draws, etc.)
  • The health insurance fund pays a kilometre reimbursement for the distances that you, as a patient, must travel between house and hospital. All oncology patients have the right to this kilometre reimbursement. On the treatment end, you will receive a form with all the dates, signed and stamped by the attending physician. You may request this form from the ICG secretariat.
  • All of our patients receive a parking voucher at a reduced rate (€1.00). Whoever does not have their own transportation or is able to have a friend or family provide transportation may inquire with our Social Services about volunteer transportation services. Please ask a nurse about this service.

Patients who come multiple times to the hospital enjoy a special parking rate of €1.00 per time. Validate your parking voucher at the secretariat before paying at the pay machine in the atrium.

To the Oncology Care Ward

What to bring

Please bring the following things with you for your hospital admission:

  • Administrative papers (identification card, hospitalisation insurance papers, etc.)
  • Medical paperwork (referral letter/documentation - labs, X-ray images - from your GP, blood type card, information about allergic reactions, current medication list)
  • Personal items (e.g. toiletries, pyjamas, closed-toe shoes, book to read)
  • Valuables or large amounts of money are better left at home (our hospital is not responsible for loss or theft)

Where to register

  • Admissions at the A&E Department
  • For a scheduled admission, you may go to the registration desk or one of the six kiosks. Your electronic identification card (e-ID) will be read there. You will receive a number that will be projected on to the television screen in the registration waiting room. Patients who do not have an e-ID will also receive a number. When your number appears on the screen, go to the indicated registration desk. Your reservation will be confirmed and you will be registered.
  • You may choose from two room types:
    - two-person room
    - one-person room

Your room selection in no way influences the quality of individual care.

The room rate (the so-called ‘nursing day rate’) is paid by the National Institute for Health and Disability Insurance (RIZIV/INAMI). The copayments (e.g. the portion for which the patient is personally responsible) and the supplemental hotel costs are the patient's financial responsibility. If you choose a single room, you will be charged a surcharge. This choice of room may be associated with higher physicians' fees. A list with the maximum fee supplements per physician is available in the Admissions Department.

Which department do you come to?

The Oncology Care Ward (D501) is part of the core team of the Integrated Cancer Centre in Ghent (IKG) of the Maria Middelares General Hospital. A team of experienced nurses are ready to provide you with professional and high-quality care that is customised to each individual patient. All nurses complete additional continuing education in oncology and have a special professional title as 'nurse specialist in oncology'.

A multidisciplinary team closely follows nodes of patient and his or her family (emotional crisis) and institutes the appropriate care if needed. Physicians, nurses, oncology coaches, dietitians, Pastoral Services, the Palliative Care Support Team and Social Services work together seamlessly, day in and day out. The involvement of all multidisciplinary team members leads to the best individualised care for each patient.

The department pays particular attention to the information offered about all facets of treatment (the process for technical testing, blood testing, specific treatment schedules, medication side effects, port systems/vascular access catheters, etc.) Specific leaflets on these topics are provided.

Who is my department contact person?

For questions, you may always contact the supervising nurse or the head nurse of the department. If necessary, we will refer you to the specific hospital staff member.

The telephone number for the nurse’s station is +32 (0)9 246 51 00.

Physician rounds

The physicians work together with the multidisciplinary team member to provide your care during the hospital admission. Each day, someone from the medical team completes rounds on all the rooms. During rounds, we try to provide as much information as possible about your medical condition and its management. Never hesitate to ask for additional information during these round visits.

Communication

  • Would you like more information about a family member who has been admitted? You may always contact the department supervisor. If you are requesting medical information, you will be transferred to the secretariat or the attending physician so that you can book an appointment. The staff member of the medical secretariat will connect you or book an appointment with the supervising physician. It is very important for us that the patient designate a single contact person.
  • Your GP will also be kept up-to-date on your medical condition and management. When you are discharged from the hospital, you will receive a discharge letter to be given to your GP. Your GP will be sent a more detailed, definitive letter later on.

Visiting hours

Visiting hours are from 2pm to 8pm.

Shorter is sweeter: a shorter visit can be more fun.

Specific visiting times, as they concern isolation measures, are at the discretion of the department supervisor.

Invoice

If you have specific questions about your invoice and your admission, please contact our Billing or Invoicing Department. You may read more here about your invoice.

More information

Extensive information about our hospital and your admission can be found in the welcome leaflet below.

Having a consultation

You come for consultation either as a new patient or to have a follow-up appointment to assess your condition. The consultations are held at two possible locations:

If you were referred by your GP, you have likely been given a supporting letter. This letter, along with any blood test results, may be given to the secretariat. The secretary will scan the document so that the physician has this information in his or her digital chart at the time of the consultation. It is always useful to write down the medications you take at home and to bring in that list when you come to have the consultation.

Visits

In the oncology and therapy day hospital we welcome one additional person per patient. This allows for smooth operation of the day hospital and ensures that patients receiving treatment do not become extra fatigued due to possible high numbers of visitors.

The general visiting rules of the hospital apply at the oncology ward. You can review them here.

Shuttle bus for radiation therapy in Kortrijk

Patients who go to the Groeninge General Hospital in Kortrijk for radiation therapy can use the shuttle bus that goes from Maria Middelares General Hospital to the Groeninge hospital.

  • Where to catch the bus? Meet in the atrium at the circle across from the gift shop
  • Departure times? At 7am: only for patients who are expected in the Maria Middelares day hospital for additional treatment after their radiation therapy. Other patients may take the shuttle bus at 10.15am.
  • Where to park? Whoever would like to take the shuttle bus can park in one of the six reserved spaces in the Maria Middelares visitor parking. They are located under the pedestrian bridge between the tower parking lot and the hospital. Please place the special parking ticket on the front of the car if you park in one of the reserved parking spaces. You will be given this special parking ticket after your first consult at Groeninge General Hospital.
  • Parking ticket? You will get a free parking ticket on the shuttle bus in order to park at Maria Middelares.
  • Reservations? Would you like to use the shuttle bus? Please let us know at your first consult with the radiation therapist at the Maria Middelares General Hospital. The Groeninge General Hospital in Kortrijk will take care of any other planning.

For care providers: MOC

A Multidisciplinary Oncology Consultation (MOC) is a meeting between different physicians and care providers to design optimum care plans for each cancer patient. Specialists from the disciplines involved review all tests and examination results, and then they discuss the future treatment plan. The Integrated Cancer Centre of Ghent (ICG) of Maria Middelares General Hospital collaborates with specialists in the E17 Hospital Network for the MOC. In addition to oncologists and physicians from the disciplines involved, GPs, oncology coaches, oncology psychologists and oncology dietitians are welcome to join the meetings. Interested GPs can join the meetings in person or take part by video conference.

or view the explainer video below:

For care providers: the portal catheter

Do you, as a care provider, want more information about accessing a portal catheter, stopping an IV, etc.? Make sure to watch the explainer videos through ‘Portal catheter: practical information for the care professional.’