Denis Naughten TD has called on Government to treat the surge in long Covid patients with the same urgency as the initial Covid-19 infections and ensure that the estimated 4487 Roscommon adults who are trying to manage long Covid are given access to the medical care they need.
“Roscommon patients are trying to access medical care as part of the 336,451 adults nationally who are likely to be suffering from long Covid and despite promises since last September we are still waiting for a treatment pathway to be put in place by the HSE” said the independent TD.
Symptoms of long Covid include fatigue and brain fog, which are experienced at least three months after the initial infection for significant periods of time, in some cases over 2 years. Professor Jack Lambert of the Mater Hospital told the Oireachtas Health Committee recently that patients with the condition “act very much like patients who have experienced closed head injuries”.
“The World Health Organisation has defined Long Covid as a condition that occurs in individuals with a history of probable or confirmed SARS CoV-2 infection, usually three months from the onset of Covid-19 with symptoms that last for at least two months and cannot be explained by an alternative diagnosis,” Deputy Naughten said.
“These effects appear to occur irrespective of the initial severity of the covid infection but occur more frequently in women, middle age and in those with more symptoms initially.”
He added that last September after he questioned the Health Minister on the issue of treatment for long Covid patients, “the HSE stated that it planned to establish specialist long Covid clinics yet today we are still waiting for this to happen”.
“The reality is that such a large number of long Covid patients presenting to our health service with complex health conditions will overwhelm our hospitals as we begin to plan for a winter of hospital overcrowding. In addition these services will be put under considerable pressure due to recurring waves of further Covid-19 illness,” said Mr Naughten.
“We cannot just sleepwalk into a crisis of chronic illness, which will push people waiting on treatments since before the pandemic even further down already horrendous waiting lists. We need to see this surge of long Covid patients managed with a co-ordinated response from Government, which based on responses that I have received previously has not been forthcoming.
Using data from the medical journal ‘The Lancet’, Deputy Naughten has provided the first analysis and county by county breakdown of the 336,451 adults nationally who are likely to be suffering from long Covid based on research conducted in Ireland and the Netherlands.
“The numbers are just staggering. Dublin has the highest number of patients suffering the long-term effects of Covid-19 with 100,650, with County Leitrim at the other end of the scale with 2,075 patients,” he said.
“These figures are based on research published earlier this month in The Lancet by a team of researchers in the Netherlands who have attributed long Covid symptoms to 12.7% of patients infected with the SARS-CoV-2 virus and research on blood donors published last month by Ireland’s Health Protection Surveillance Centre which indicates that 69% of adults in Ireland have been infected by the virus.
“In fact, The Lancet paper has described long Covid as ‘the next public health disaster in the making’, which clearly indicates that Government must now treat this illness and the patients with it as a matter of the utmost priority.”