SUFFERERS of long covid in Carlow are being left without a clear treatment plan, as there are no specialist clinics operating in the south-east.
A Carlow healthcare worker who has been out of work for over 18 months due to long covid is calling for clinics nationwide, including the south-east.
There are six current and proposed clinics operating in Dublin, Cork, Limerick and Galway.
There are no public transport links, where the man, who did not wish to be named, lives. The effects of long covid also mean he is not be well enough to drive himself.
‘‘I wouldn’t be able to drive to Dublin on my own. I am fortunate to have a wife who would drive me, but there is a lot of people who won’t be able to drive to it.’’
There are roughly 1.5 million people who contracted covid-19 in Ireland, with between 10-20% having long covid. It means, potentially, 300,000 who need to avail of clinics. The more clinics the better, argued the Carlow man, who suffers from fatigue and forgetfulness. A petition has been set up online ‘Fund Long-Covid Multidisciplinary Clinics Nationwide’ on uplift.ie, attracting almost 3,000 signatures.
Long covid has changed the healthcare worker’s life. He could sleep for 12 hours fitfully and wake up exhausted. A small physical exertion can floor him.
‘‘I have no energy. I tried to a do a bit of weeding on a small garden and it took me three days to recover from it,’’ he said. ‘‘It’s hard to look forward to things because you feel so sh**e. You don’t know how you will get by from one day to the next.’’
He has become very forgetful, having to make constant notes of appointments and things he has to do.
He met a man he had known for 20 years recently and couldn’t recall his first name. Still, he considers himself fortunate when compared to others.
‘‘It could be worse; I am still here. Over 6,500 died from this,’’ he said. ‘‘I am not saying I am the worse case ever, but we need to look after ourselves.”
The man said there is a great need for clinics, as there is a lack of coordination between different specialities, with sufferers going from one consultant to the next.
‘‘There are about 200-300 different symptoms of long covid-19. You could have one of them or 20 of them. I have been sent to a pulmonary specialist, respirologist, physio, a heart check. All different people sending me to all different places. No one talking to each other.’’
There is also an issue with the model of care being provided to long covid patients. The model was created by pulmonary (lung) specialists, but health experts like Dr Jack Lambert are calling for it to be remodelled with more input from psychologists.
Dr Lambert, who runs a long covid clinic in the Mater Hospital, said evidence to date showed that the lung and heart repaired itself, while damage to the brain persists.
In a statement, the HSE say they are working to expand existing clinics to provide a full scope of care.
They highlight that work is underway to model numbers affected by Long Covid. The statement added there is no single test that can be used to confirm the condition and symptoms are varied, can fluctuate and relapse.
“An epidemiological survey is being planned in this regard and will be key to providing insight and understanding to the prevalence of Long Covid in the Irish Population and risk factors for developing Long Covid. It will also help to forecast future demand for future Long Covid services.
“The HSE is implementing and resourcing the establishment of Post-Acute and Long Covid services across the country. Some of these clinics have already been established in response local population need. The HSE is now working closely with each of the Long Covid and Post-Acute hospital sites to expand the existing clinics to provide a full scope of care. Provision of new and additional resources to these clinics will ensure all services are operating to the same high standard of care. Recruitment has commenced at all sites.
“The Long Covid clinics that are currently operational include St Vincent’s University Hospital, Beaumont Hospital and University Hospital Galway. The Post-Acute Covid clinics that are operational include University Hospital Galway and Connolly Hospital Blanchardstown. Both Tallaght University Hospital and St James’s University are operating combined Post-Acute and Long Covid clinics.
As Long Covid clinics become more established, they will be capture information in relation to waiting lists and activity levels. Collation of this data will be key to estimating the numbers of patients experiencing Long Covid.”