Information about COVID-19

Continuation of care and treatment at the Netherlands Cancer Institute

Now the COVID-19 infections are increasing, we have been seeing messages in the news about scaling down regular care. Our care will continue whenever possible. We recommend not postponing your appointment. As an exception, planned (non-acute, such as preventive) breast reconstructions have been temporarily postponed. Please do not come to the hospital if you have symptoms (see Contact before appointments and planned admission).

Guiding principles

Precautions will remain in effect

Patients with cancer are vulnerable. We have learned more and more about COVID-19, the coronavirus, over the past year and now know that patients with cancer - especially those with cancer in the blood (leukemia or lymphoma) and patients with metastases from lung cancer or other cancers who are receiving chemotherapy are at risk for more serious COVID-19 symptoms than people who do not have cancer. It is very important that all people with cancer receive vaccinations against COVID. The regular measures, hand hygiene, social distancing, no more than 1 visitor at a time, and barring entry for people with symptoms will remain in effect to prevent further spread of COVID-19.

Treatment plan in collaboration with practicing physician

Our main priority is to get all our patients through these turbulent times as safely as possible. We assess each patient's individual personal situation to consider our course of action. All appointments at the Netherlands Cancer Institute can proceed as normal. The services at our hospital are vital and essential: surgery, treatment, radiation, and diagnostic tests. If possible, we will schedule a phone consultation with you so you won't have to travel to our hospital. If this is an option for you, we will notify you. We may make different choices in your treatment. Please be assured that we will only deviate from the norm or plan if we truly believe that your treatment will not be harmed. Your practicing physician will discuss your options with you. We do not recommend canceling your appointment. During the first wave, fewer people came to our hospital, risking late diagnoses.

if you are concerned or are experiencing problems, please contact us at 020-5129111.

Long distance consultations

Our physicians or nurses will try and continue to schedule as many video consultations as possible. We will contact you if your appointment at the hospital will be held through a video call. If you do not hear from us, you can assume that your appointment will not be changed. Please remember to notify us at +31 (0)20 – 512 9111 if you are experiencing respiratory symptoms (coughing or shortness of breath). We will assess your symptoms to see if we can safely proceed with your appointment. Patients with appointments at our radiotherapy, radiology, or outpatient clinics, or patients who are coming to the clinic for the first time, will be contacted by phone one day before their appointment to assess any potential respiratory symptoms (coughing, shortness of breath, sneezing) or fever (temperature over 38C or 100.4F).

Research trials reopened

Our research trials, including phase I trials, have been reopened as of May 7, 2020. If you think you may qualify for one of our trials, please contact your practicing physician.

videostill Gabe Sonke Corona

Safe treatment measures

Gabe Sonke and Frederique van Duijnhoven show us the precautions and measures at the NKI that help us deliver safe cancer treatment minimal risks.

Precautions

Patient and visitor screening at main entrance

We are committed to keeping COVID-19 out of our hospital. If our institute can remain COVID-19-free, we can continue to deliver essential cancer treatment. We have set up a corona desk at the main entrance where we ask all patients if they have any potential respiratory symptoms or a fever. We measure the temperature of all our patients as well using an infrared thermometer.

Visitors experiencing respiratory symptoms or a fever will be asked to leave the hospital. We understand that these measures are frustrating, but this measure is essential to guarantee a low risk of contracting COVID-19 at the hospital. We hope that we can count on your understanding and cooperation.

Patients with a slightly elevated temperature and mild symptoms who need treatment at the hospital will have to take extra precautions. We have set up a special hospital wing for patients with suspected COVID-19. They will be taken to this wing using a special route (yellow). All patients will receive information about our screening procedure one day before their visit.

In the hospital wing, we will ask you about your symptoms. We will discuss the best way to proceed together with your practicing physician. He or she will determine whether your consultation, treatment, or diagnostic procedure will continue. If not, we ask you to leave the hospital and come back at a later time. We will schedule a new appointment with you.

if we decide that we can proceed with your appointment, you will be escorted to the department or clinic where you had your appointment. We do not test for COVID-19 unless your practicing physician feels that it is necessary.

If you are experiencing symptoms without a fever, we will contact your practicing physician. The goal of these measures is to prevent patients with COVID-19 from walking around in our hospital and limit the number of tests to only those that are absolutely necessary.

We may ask you to tell us about your symptoms multiple times, which may be an inconvenience. Please remember that these measures help is keep our hospital free of COVID-19.

Restrictions on visitors and support

In order to lower the risk of coronavirus infections at our hospital, we will attempt to keep the number of people at the hospital at a minimum. This involves restrictions on people visiting patients at one of our wards and people who are supporting patients to their appointments. We understand that these measures may be frustrating but the usual number of people coming to our hospital is too high for the available waiting rooms. With these numbers, we cannot guarantee a safe social distance of 1.5 meters for all people. Deviating from this policy is possible in the case of vulnerable patients, or patients who are dependent on their accompanist, but always remember to discuss this first. Support persons can wait outside, or at the end of the central hall.

Visitation policy:

  • Patients may receive 1 visitor a day (24 hours), as well as one child under 13 that is part of their family.
  • Visitation hours will start later and will now be between 16.30 – 19.30 in order to prevent crowds in the central hall.
  • We ask our visitors not to come to our hospital when experiencing respiratory symptoms (coughing, cold symptoms), a sore throat, or a fever.
  • Always keep a social distance of 1.5 meters and wear a face mask at all times.
  • All visitors will need to be registered one day in advance. Patients can register their visitors for that day on the NKI iPads. People at the reception desk will verify whether you have been registered as a visitor.
  • One of our corona hosts will be present near the entrance of the wards and the department restaurant.

Our policy for support persons is as follows:

  • We ask all support persons not to come to our hospital when experiencing respiratory symptoms (coughing, cold symptoms), a sore throat, or a fever.
  • Always keep a social distance of 1.5 meters and wear a face mask at all times.
  • Clinics and Survivorship Center: Patients coming to the hospital for an appointment can be accompanied by 1 person.
  • Outpatient Clinic and CRU (Clinical Research Unit): Patients can only be accompanied by 1 person during the first session unless the patient is vulnerable.
  • Diagnostics and Treatment Center (OBC): Patients who are vulnerable who are coming in for urology appointments can be accompanied by one person, but only on Thursday mornings.
  • Emergency department: 1 support person per patient.
  • Radiation oncology: 1 support person, and only during a consultation at the clinic. Only vulnerable patients can be accompanied during radiation therapy.
  • Radiology and Blood draw lab: No support persons unless the patient is vulnerable.

Deviating from this policy is possible in the case of vulnerable patients, or patients who are dependent on their accompanist, but always remember to discuss this first. Support persons can wait outside, or at the end of the central hall.

RIVM Personal hygiene policy

To prevent the spread of COVID-19, we adhere to the RIVM personal hygiene policy:

  • Regularly wash your hands
  • Cover a sneeze or cough with your elbow
  • Use paper tissues
  • Do not shake hands
  • Stay home when experiencing cold symptoms

We recommend disinfecting your hands, or washing with water and soap when visiting the hospital.

Phone / video consultations for patients when possible

To lower the risk of COVID-19 infection at our hospital, we try to keep the numbers of patients at our hospital as low as possible. Whenever possible, we will offer patients phone consultations instead of in-person consultations. We can opt for long-distance consultations if the patient does not need to be physically present, and if this is logistically possible. These consultations can be used to discuss side effects of the treatment, or discuss the results of diagnostic testing or the next step in treatment, or to answer patient questions.

All patients for whom phone consultations are an option will be contacted on the day before their consultation to change their appointment to one over the phone. To avoid putting too much pressure on our phone operators, we ask that patients do not contact us to ask about these phone consultations themselves. If a phone consultation is an option for you, we will contact you. You can complete the consultation when you receive the call, or on the original date of your appointment. The exact time will depend on the assessment of the physician, clinical nurse specialist, and the patient.

If you did not receive a phone call, you can assume that you will need to be physically present during your consultation and that it cannot be handled over the phone. Please visit the hospital at the time of your appointment.

Contact before your appointment or admission

If you have an appointment at our hospital and are experiencing respiratory symptoms (coughing, shortness of breath) or a sudden loss of taste or smell, please notify us immediately at 020 – 512 9111. Our staff will assess your situation and will decide whether you can come in for your appointment. Patients coming in for an appointment at our Radiation Therapy, Radiology, Outpatient, or OBC Department and patients who are coming in for their first appointment at the clinic will be contacted one day before their appointment for a screening of potential COVID-19 symptoms.

If possible, we will limit the number of physical appointments you will have at the hospital. We will contact you one day before your appointment if we think your appointment may not be essential. If you do not hear from us, you can assume that you can come in for an appointment as expected. Please do not contact us to ask about your appointment.

Tighter measures after return from a color-coded orange or red region or contact screening

Patients

  • Return from a color-coded red or orange region

Have you been to a color-coded orange or red region in the past 10 days? Please contact your practicing physician at 020 5129111 before coming in for your appointment. If possible, we will reschedule your appointment to a date after your self-isolation period of 10 days. We follow the guidelines as outlined by the RIVM and urge you to self-isolate for a period of 10 days after returning from a color-coded red or orange country. If your treatment cannot be postponed, we will take adequate protective measures to protect you, our staff, visitors, and patients from a potential infection.

  • Were you marked as a close contact after contact screening or are you self-isolating?

Were you marked as a close contact after contact screening, or are you self-isolating? Please contact your practicing physician before your visit to the NKI at 020 5129111.

  • Visitors and support persons

Visitors and support persons who have recently returned from a color-coded orange or red region are asked not to come to our hospital until after the self-isolation period of 10 days. These measures also apply to visitors and support persons who are self-isolating after having been marked as a close contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19.

Face mask / face shield policy

The safety of our patients, employees, and visitors always comes first. That’s why it I mandatory to wear a face mask at the hospital as of December 1.

Patients and visitors

Do you have an appointment at the hospital, or would you like to visit someone?

  • Wearing a face mask is mandatory at all times. All patients and visitors over the age of 13 should wear a face mask at our institute.
  • Please bring your own face mask. The face mask will need to cover the nose and mouth in order to prevent the spread of germs.
  • If you do not have a face mask (that meets the requirements), you can get one upon your entry to the hospital. Please put on your mask in the elevator or staircase of the parking garage and wear the mask during your entire stay.

Employees

The following policy applies to our staff:

  • Anyone working in direct patient care within 1.5 meters of the patients will wear a surgical face mask.
  • Anyone working in direct patient care at a distance greater than 1.5 meters of the patient is sufficiently protected by means of a face shield but is allowed to wear a surgical face mask if desired.
  • All staff will wear a face shield or surgical face mask in the public spaces at our hospital.

Next to these protective measures, the following measures apply: health screening at the entrance for patients and visitors, regularly washing your hands, cover a cough or sneeze with your elbow, keep a social distance of 1.5 meters, and proper cleanliness and ventilation. Your and your safety is important to us.

The use of face masks for patients who are deaf or rely on lip-reading

If you are deaf or hard of hearing, your health care provider can wear a face shield to allow you to lip-read as normal.

If you cannot wear a face mask due to your health, you can take it off once you are in the consultation room or office. As long as you keep a social distance of 1.5 meters at all times. You are welcome to use a face shield if you have one.

If you are bringing a support person, please make sure that he or she wears a face mask for the duration of the visit. He or she is welcome to wear a face shield as well.

Frequently asked questions about COVID vaccines

I am receiving treatment for cancer. Is a vaccination safe for me?

Most studies using approved vaccines did not include people with cancer, so we currently do not know whether cancer patients who are receiving chemotherapy and/or immunotherapy are equally protected against the coronavirus by the vaccine. There has been no reason to believe that people with cancer are at risk of more serious side effects as a result of the vaccines, but we will conduct further research into this in 2021. We recommend all cancer patients to get their vaccinations when receiving an invitation from the government and not postponing the moment for the sake of their treatment. 

I am receiving immunotherapy. Is a vaccination safe for me?

Most studies using approved vaccines did not include people with cancer, so we currently do not know whether cancer patients who are receiving immunotherapy are equally protected against the coronavirus by the vaccine. There has been no reason to believe that people with cancer are at risk of more serious side effects as a result of the vaccines, but we will conduct further research into this in 2021. We recommend all cancer patients receiving immunotherapy to get their vaccinations when receiving an invitation from the government and not postponing the moment for the sake of their treatment. 

I am receiving chemotherapy. Is a vaccination safe for me?

Most studies using approved vaccines did not include people with cancer, so we currently do not know whether cancer patients who are receiving chemotherapy are equally protected against the coronavirus by the vaccine. There has been no reason to believe that people with cancer are at risk of more serious side effects as a result of the vaccines, but we will conduct further research into this in 2021. We recommend all cancer patients receiving chemotherapy to get their vaccinations when receiving an invitation from the government and not postponing the moment for the sake of their treatment. 

I am scheduled for surgery soon. Is a vaccination safe for me?

Most studies using approved vaccines did not include people with cancer, so we currently do not know whether cancer patients who are receiving treatment (including surgery) are equally protected against the coronavirus by the vaccine. There has been no reason to believe that people with cancer are at risk of more serious side effects as a result of the vaccines, but we will conduct further research into this in 2021. We recommend all cancer patients scheduled for surgery to get their vaccinations.

I am receiving radiotherapy. Is a vaccination safe for me?

Most studies using approved vaccines did not include people with cancer, so we currently do not know whether cancer patients who are receiving radiation treatment are equally protected against the coronavirus by the vaccine. There has been no reason to believe that people with cancer are at risk of more serious side effects as a result of the vaccines, but we will conduct further research into this in 2021. We recommend all cancer patients receiving radiation treatment to get their vaccinations.

Can my NKI physician prioritize me for a COVID-19 vaccine?

The NKI cannot affect the government's vaccination strategy. The Ministry of Health, Wellness, and Sport will determine who will get their vaccinations, and when. The RIVM puts this plan into practice. Information about the groups, order, and strategy can be found on the government website.

Can I receive my vaccination at the NKI as a patient?

In general, no patients will receive their vaccinations at the NKI. There have been several exceptions, due to specific trials or medical risks. These people have been vaccinated. All other patients will be invited for their vaccinations by the RIVM, GGD, or general practitioner. You can find more information about COVID-19 vaccines at government.nl

If I get an invitation for an AstraZeneca vaccination, would it be a good idea to accept it?

Patients with cancer - especially those with cancer in the blood (leukemia or lymphoma) and patients with metastases from lung cancer or other cancers who are receiving chemotherapy are at risk for more serious COVID-19 symptoms than people who do not have cancer. It is very important that all people with cancer receive vaccinations against COVID. Our stance regarding the AstraZeneca vaccines is that people over the age of 60 can safely get vaccinated. For people under the age of 60, the pros of the AstraZeneca vaccine might also outweigh the cons, but the government currently advises otherwise. We will continue to emphasize the importance of vaccinations for cancer patients. 

Why do we ask to register your vaccination status in your medical file?

As of Thursday, June 3, we will register your vaccination status in your medical file. if you are vaccinated, we will register the date and type of vaccine. One of our members of staff will ask you about your vaccination status within the coming weeks if you have an appointment at the NKI. You are not obligated to give us this information if you would prefer not to.

we register this information because we want to ensure that you receive the best care and treatment possible. For that, we will need to have an accurate overview of our patients' situations, which requires information about various things like medications you take, and your vaccination status. We currently do not know whether the vaccines are as effective in preventing COVID-19 for people with cancer who are receiving immunotherapy or chemotherapy. That's why we also want to know the time of your vaccination.

Just like all other information in your medical file, we will handle your data with care and in accordance with the privacy regulations.