Hospital to set up clinic for long-Covid sufferers

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A NEW clinic to treat the growing number of long-Covid sufferers is to be set up at the Hospital, the government has confirmed.

There were 332 Islanders with the condition as of this week, according to the government, a rise of almost 100 in less than two months.

Symptoms can vary from fatigue and shortness of breath to debilitating tiredness, heart palpitations and memory loss.

Members of the Scientific and Technical Advisory Cell, which offers guidance to the government on Covid policy, were informed at the end of November that there were 248 patients with long Covid, which had risen from 216 at the beginning of that month.

It was also revealed that women aged 40 to 49 were the most affected group, although the reason for this was not clear.

The government has previously said a long-Covid response plan was being developed, and yesterday a spokesperson confirmed that a dedicated clinic was being set up. They also confirmed that a doctor had been recruited to lead the clinic, which is expected to be running by the end of the month.

‘The clinic will be located in outpatients at the Hospital. A number of patients have already been referred to the clinic by their GPs,’ the spokesperson added.

When asked if there were concerns that high case numbers due to Omicron, despite not being reflected in hospitalisations, could have long-term impacts for Islanders who get long Covid, the government spokesperson responded: ‘We are waiting to see if the Omicron variant has the same propensity as previous variants to cause long Covid. We know that Omicron symptoms are different and not as severe, which may affect the frequency and severity of subsequent long Covid.’

Islander Jenny Clark said she lost her sense of taste and smell when she contracted Covid in December 2020, and she was still suffering symptoms.

‘I still cannot taste or smell properly and I’m starting to feel like it will never be the same again,’ she said, adding that up until three months ago she still could not smell or taste anything, and in the last few months she could,

‘but unfortunately it’s all wrong’.

‘Nothing tastes or smells nice anymore. The things I used to enjoy are either disgusting, or taste or smell of nothing unless they are very salty or very sweet,’ she said.

Deputy Rob Ward has called for GP fees to be subsidised for patients suffering from long Covid, when symptoms associated with the virus last for more than 12 weeks.

Deputy Ward said the government needed a long-term plan for dealing with the illness, ‘particularly when case numbers have been allowed to rise so sharply’.

‘There is no certainty over the situation with long Covid. We must have learnt that being prepared for all situations is vital during a pandemic and in its aftermath,’ he said, adding: ‘Too often there had been a reactive response. This requires a proactive approach to minimise the overall impact on our population.’

The government has also confirmed that there have been no cases in Jersey of a new, rare condition in children that occurs after they have had Covid. Paediatric Inflammatory Multisystem Syndrome causes swelling throughout the body and can result in hospitalisation, with two cases reported in Guernsey, including one where a girl had to be flown to Southampton for treatment.

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