Primary Healthcare Professionals' Preparedness during the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic in Greece

Smyrnakis Emmanouil, Gavana Magda, Dimitra Iosifina Papageorgiou, Haidich Anna-Bettina, Andreou Martha, Michael Dandoulakis, Avgerinou Christina, Theodoropoulos Elias, Roka Violeta, Birtsou Charis, Yakimova-Polyzou Vesela, Kokkali Stamatia, Kotsani Marina, Manolaki Chrysanthi, Zeibekis Doukas, Paganas Aristofanis, Talimitzi Persefoni, Stachteas Panagiotis, Pagkozidis Ilias, Vlachopoulos Nickolaos, Giakoumis Anastasios

Keywords: COVID-19, pandemic, preparedness, primary care

It is commonly suggested that Primary Healthcare Professionals (PHPs) face difficulty in applying research evidence into practice and that their clinical practice is not up-to-date. The gap between theory and practice could be detrimental especially in the case of pandemics.

Research questions:
This study investigates the level of preparedness knowledge of public PHPs, during the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic in Greece.

A mixed methodology study was conducted by the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki Primary Health Care Research Network (AUTH.PHC.RN). PHPs participating in the quantitative cross-sectional during the first wave of the COVID-19, filled in a web-based 18 item questionnaire. Knowledge level was assessed by the use of scenarios and data were grouped for the development of a scoring system. Associations with demographic data were analyzed. The qualitative study, based on semi-structured interviews, was conducted after the first wave of the pandemic with a different group of PHPs. Interview transcripts were analyzed by thematic analysis.

The response rate was 68.3% (444 out of 650 invited participants, representing 6.18% of public PHPs). Participants having more working experience, have less preparedness knowledge (p:0.046) and participants in a high-risk group, have less knowledge (p:0.022). 1st line physicians have more knowledge than other 1st and 2nd line PHPs (p<0.001). Females have less knowledge compared to males (p:0.015). Interviewed PHPs (n=33) reported that during the pandemic, they familiarised themselves with hygiene and safety protocols and gained clarity on infection prevention strategies and invaluable experience in practicing their profession under special circumstances.

During the first wave of COVID-19 in Greece, PHPs working at first line were more flexible in promptly implementing new guidelines and protocols in their practice. Training in the use of new protocols in primary care could improve the thorough and faster implementation of new evidence in daily practice.

Points for discussion:
The way Primary Care could rapidly respond to new situations.

The way Primary Care can put into practice new emergency protocols and safety guidelines.