Impact of COVID-19 primary healthcare service restrictions on patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease in Cape Town, South Africa


  • L Farrant Department of Family, Community and Emergency Care, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Cape Town, South Africa
  • R Harding Cicely Saunders Institute, King’s College, London, UK
  • K Nkhoma Cicely Saunders Institute, King’s College, London, UK
  • O Mzimkulu Department of Family, Community and Emergency Care, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Cape Town, South Africa
  • J Hunter Department of Family, Community and Emergency Care, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Cape Town, South Africa
  • L Gwyther Department of Family, Community and Emergency Care, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Cape Town, South Africa



Covid-19, COPD


Background. Patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) typically experience multidimensional symptoms throughout the course of their disease, with burdensome physical symptoms, social isolation, and additional psychological suffering. COVID-19 lockdown resulted in restrictions on chronic care delivery at primary healthcare (PHC) facilities, and it is not known what the care experiences of patients with COPD were during this time.
Objectives. To describe patient experiences of the impact of the lockdown on their needs and their experiences of the primary care received for their COPD.
Methods. The data reported in this paper are from a cohort of 49 patients with COPD receiving primary care, recruited in February and
March 2020, before recruitment was paused for COVID-19 lockdown, for a feasibility stepped-wedge hybrid type II design randomised
controlled trial of integrated person-centred palliative care in primary care for patients with COPD in Cape Town, South Africa. Data are
open-text responses from participants who responded to a single question on a validated measure of primary care consultation empathy (CARE), and describe patient experiences of the impact of the lockdown on the primary care received for their COPD, prior to crossover to trial intervention.
Results. Thirty-two patients with COPD gave between 1 and 9 responses each to the open-ended question between March and December 2020. The average age of the participants was 58.6 years, and 53.1% (n=17) were female. Inductive analysis of the open-text data identified four main themes. Participants described decreased access to chronic care and a desire for more person-centred care in interactions with healthcare professionals. The socioeconomic ramifications of the COVID-19 lockdown added to the burden they experienced.
Conclusion. The COVID-19 lockdown PHC service restrictions caused a disruption to the continuity of care for patients with COPD,
with associated worry, anxiety and disappointment. Medication access was largely supported by the home delivery of chronic medication. We suggest that there are opportunities for providing more sustained support for patients with COPD through referrals to community health workers, and also through telephonic patient follow-up by primary care teams


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How to Cite

Farrant L, Harding R, Nkhoma K, Mzimkulu O, Hunter J, Gwyther L. Impact of COVID-19 primary healthcare service restrictions on patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease in Cape Town, South Africa. S Afr Med J [Internet]. 2022 Aug. 30 [cited 2024 Jun. 15];112(9):760-4. Available from:

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