Denis Naughten

TD urges health service to act on behalf of 300,000 'Long Covid' sufferers

Despite the fact that up to 300,000 people may be suffering from the impact of 'Long Covid', the HSE is still only at the planning stage in its assessment of the scale of the problem and the possible impact on our health service, according to TD Denis Naughten.

Anne O’Connor, the Chief Operations Officer of the HSE, responded to a question on the issue from Deputy Naughten by stating that even though some 20% of those who contracted Covid-19 may now be suffering from 'Long Covid' the HSE is only now planning an epidemiological survey to get an insight into, and an understanding of, the condition.

“The actions by the HSE are far too slow because there is no doubt that there are thousands of people suffering from Long Covid who have been placed on waiting lists, adding to the huge delays in accessing hospital and outpatient appointments already,” said the Roscommon TD.

“Officially there over 1.5 million PCR-confirmed Covid-19 cases, which could leave up to 300,000 people suffering from Long Covid, as well as many more people with a Covid infection who never had it verified by a PCR test.

“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.

“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.

“Last September, after I 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.

“This is not only delaying treatments for these patients but pushing other patients who are waiting to see doctors further down the waiting list.

“Such an approach is causing chaos to our hospital waiting list and denying patients the vital and timely care that they need which cannot be allowed to continue.

“The Government and the HSE needs to take a similar approach to the management and treatment of Long Covid as it has done to the initial waves of Covid infection.

“Not doing so could lead to a tidal wave of chronic Long Covid illness that will stall any measure taken to clear the current appalling waiting lists with over 850,000 waiting for treatment or the first meeting with a consultant for an outpatient appointment,” concluded Denis Naughten.