Main Article Content
Objectives. The COVID-19 pandemic has made a major impact on hospital services globally, including the care of persons with diabetes and endocrine disorders. The aim of this study is to describe the epidemiology of COVID-19 in the ASEAN Federation of Endocrine Societies (AFES) member countries; to describe challenges, changes and opportunities in caring for patients with endocrine diseases, as well as in fellowship training programs, and endocrine-related
research in the AFES countries.
Methodology. The AFES ASEAN Survey Of Needs in Endocrinology (AFES A.S.-O.N.E.) was an open-ended questionnaire that was sent to the presidents and representatives of the AFES member countries by email. Responses from Societies were collated and synthesized to obtain perspectives on the emergent issues in endocrinology in the Southeast Asian region during this pandemic.
Results. The burden of COVID-19 cases varied widely across the AFES member countries, with the least number of cases in Vietnam and Myanmar, and the greatest number of cases in either the most populous countries (Indonesia and the Philippines), or a country with the highest capability for testing (Singapore). The case fatality rate was also the highest for Indonesia and the Philippines at around 6%, and lowest for Vietnam at no fatalities. The percentage with diabetes among patients with COVID-19 ranged from 5% in Indonesia to 20% in Singapore, approximating the reported percentages in China and the United States. The major challenges in managing patients with endocrine diseases involved inaccessibility of health care providers, clinics and hospitals due to the implementation of lockdowns, community quarantines or movement control among the member countries. This led to disruptions in the continuity of care, testing and monitoring, and for some, provision of both preventive care and active management including surgery for thyroid cancer or pituitary and adrenal tumors, and radioactive iodine therapy. Major disruptions in the endocrine fellowship training programs were also noted across the region, so that some countries have had to freeze hiring of new trainees or to revise both program requirements and approaches to training due to the closure of outpatient endocrine clinics. The same observations are seen for endocrine-related researches, as most research papers have focused on the pandemic. Finally, the report ends by describing innovative approaches to fill in the gap in training and in improving patient access to endocrine services by Telemedicine.
Conclusion. The burden of COVID-19 cases and its case fatality rate varies across the AFES member countries but its impact is almost uniform: it has disrupted the provision of care for patients with endocrine diseases, and has also disrupted endocrine fellowship training and endocrine-related research across the region. Telemedicine and innovations in training have been operationalized across the AFES countries in an attempt to cope with the disruptions from
COVID-19, but its over-all impact on the practice of endocrinology across the region will only become apparent once we conquer this pandemic.
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