Long COVID clinics grow
South Australia is creating new clinics to deal with the legacy of ‘long COVID’.
The state’s health department is setting up dedicated clinics to treat what some see as a second pandemic - affecting many COVID patients long after the virus has eased for most.
Four clinics have opened across metropolitan Adelaide, at the Royal Adelaide, Queen Elizabeth and Women's and Children's hospitals, and Flinders Medical Centre.
The clinics are aimed at helping people still experiencing significant symptoms three months after infection, including fatigue, body aches, shortness of breath and brain fog.
Central Adelaide Local Health Network (CALHN) infectious diseases expert Dr Renjy Nelson helped to develop the state's long COVID plan.
He says ‘long COVID’ includes cases with “symptoms at least 12 weeks after the acute infection, lasting for at least two months without an alternative explanation”.
“Long COVID is certainly an entity we need to be aware of - it's in fact actually now even being addressed as the 'long COVID pandemic' because of the sheer number,” Dr Nelson says.
“We know there's over 2 to 3 million people around the world who are suffering from long COVID.
“We commonly see people with breathlessness - people who are high achievers who were very fit prior to this now finding themselves not able to climb a flight of stairs.”
The new clinics will be staffed by neurologists, neuropsychologists, cardiologists, respiratory physicians, rheumatologists and immunologists.
“We started putting together a group of clinicians when we first started seeing patients from the Ruby Princess who, even six months after their infection, continued to remain unwell,” Dr Nelson said.
Health Minister Chris Picton says GPs will direct patients to one of the clinics.
“People will be able to refer to these clinics via their general practitioner if after 12 weeks they're still facing significant symptoms,” he said.
“This will then enable a single point of contact to be able to help with what could be a wide range of different medical issues they could be facing.”
Long COVID clinics have already opened at public hospitals in Sydney, Melbourne and Canberra.