Partnership between academia and policymakers: Example of a COVID-19 preparedness study in Portuguese nursing homes during the initial phases of the pandemic and the projects that followed

Presenter: Óscar Brito Fernandes

Abstract for the International workshop on COVID-19 and Long-Term Care systems: What have we learnt and what policies do we need to strengthen LTC systems?, 6 and 7th December 2021

Watch the presentation (see 27:40):

Oscar Brito Fernandes: LTC-COVID International Workshop 6 – 7 December 2021


From the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Algarve Biomedical Centre—an academic research centre of the University of Algarve, Portugal— directed its resources towards supporting communities coping with the COVID-19 pandemic. During the initial phases of the pandemic, nursing homes’ COVID-19 preparedness had been poor, with effects on safety culture and well-being of staff and residents. Towards supporting the needs and expectations of nursing homes, the Algarve Biomedical Centre partnered with the Ministry of Labour, Solidarity, and Social Security. To better support nursing homes and inform policymakers’ decision-making, we conducted a study during the initial phases of the pandemic in southern Portugal. The objective of this study was to assess nursing homes’ COVID-19 preparedness, including staff’s work experiences. Our findings showed 25% of nursing homes did not have an adequate decision-making structure to respond to the pandemic. In most contingency plans, outbreak capacity and training were overlooked areas. Teamwork was perceived as a strength in safety culture, whereas compliance with procedures and nonpunitive response to mistakes needed improvement. These results fostered the partnership between the Algarve Biomedical Centre and the Ministry of Labour, Solidarity, and Social Security. While initially the partnership was focused on COVID-19 testing of staff and residents in southern Portugal nursing homes, it has quickly matured to an evidence-based comprehensive and nationwide set of solutions towards supporting Portuguese nursing homes for the challenges ahead caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.


  • Department of Public and Occupational Health, Amsterdam Public Health Research Institute, Amsterdam UMC, University of Amsterdam, The Netherlands
  • Public Health Research Centre, NOVA National School of Public Health, NOVA University of Lisbon, Portugal
  • Algarve Biomedical Centre, University of Algarve, Portugal

For more information on the studies:

  • COVID-19 Preparedness and Perceived Safety in Nursing Homes in Southern Portugal: A Cross-Sectional Survey-Based Study in the Initial Phases of the Pandemic (peer-reviewed article available here
  • Public website (in Portuguese) developed to support nursing homes registering and monitoring residents’ oxygen saturation levels, temperature, and respiratory rate.

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