To defer or not to defer? : A German longitudinal multicentric assessment of clinical practice in urology during the COVID-19 pandemic
INTRODUCTION:After the outbreak of COVID-19 unprecedented changes in the healthcare systems worldwide were necessary resulting in a reduction of urological capacities with postponements of consultations and surgeries. MATERIAL AND METHODS:An email was sent to 66 urological hospitals with focus on robotic surgery (RS) including a link to a questionnaire (e.g. bed/staff capacity, surgical caseload, protection measures during RS) that covered three time points: a representative baseline week prior to COVID-19, the week of March 16th-22nd and April 20th-26th 2020. The results were evaluated using descriptive analyses. RESULTS:27 out of 66 questionnaires were analyzed (response rate: 41%). We found a decrease of 11% in hospital beds and 25% in OR capacity with equal reductions for endourological, open and robotic procedures. Primary surgical treatment of urolithiasis and benign prostate syndrome (BPS) but also of testicular and penile cancer dropped by at least 50% while the decrease of surgeries for prostate, renal and urothelial cancer (TUR-B and cystectomies) ranged from 15 to 37%. The use of personal protection equipment (PPE), screening of staff and patients and protection during RS was unevenly distributed in the different centers-however, the number of COVID-19 patients and urologists did not reach double digits. CONCLUSION:The German urological landscape has changed since the outbreak of COVID-19 with a significant shift of high priority surgeries but also continuation of elective surgical treatments. While screening and staff protection is employed heterogeneously, the number of infected German urologists stays low.