Long Covid impact on brain ‘underestimated’ and not included in HSE treatment plan, leading doctor warns

The residual damage to the brain in Long Covid patients is underestimated and not recognized in the HSE’s plan to treat the condition, a top infectious disease adviser warned today

rof Jack Lambert, of Dublin’s Mater Hospital, told the Oireachtas Health Committee that in 2021, a questionnaire from patients with Long Covid at his clinic showed many had brain fog that lasted for a year, cognitive problems, exhaustion, trouble sleeping and psychological problems they had not previously.

The experience of Long Covid patients can be similar to a person who has suffered a closed head injury.

He said when the HSE’s draft Long Covid guidelines were being drafted a year ago, the “target posts” shifted.

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“The plan focuses on early post-Covid-19 follow-up with a group of eight pulmonary specialists and a cadre of nutritionists and podiatrists, with no mention of psychologists.

“However, for those of us treating patients in the hospital, evidence was mounting at the time that the lungs were healing, the heart was healing, but the brain was not healing.”

He said he was surprised to see Mater’s Infectious Diseases Unit not included as a site for follow-up, despite most of the scientific data being generated in Ireland on the subject, and he suspected more Long Covid patients are being treated than any other location in Ireland.

He requested a meeting with the HSE national clinical director to discuss the results of his research in April, but it was last Friday before he received a call – ahead of his appearance before the committee – asking to meet in the next weeks.

Prof Lambert said he was proposing that the Mater be the center for neurorehabilitation with a national network to support GPs because there are so many Long Covid patients across the country and many are unable to travel because they are so ill.

He said it would focus on brain rehabilitation as Long Covid patients behave very similarly to patients who have suffered closed head injuries.

The team would include neurologists, psychologists and psychiatrists, and neurophysiotherapists.

He said his team will help rewrite the guidelines in the HSE’s Long Covid treatment plan.

He knows patients who are being discharged from post-Covid clinics as there is nothing wrong with them.

Some “jumped from one specialist to another and many thousands of euros in tests were carried out”.

He said: “I was recently in contact with a psychiatric nurse who has been suffering from Covid for a year and is experiencing overwhelming anxiety and is unable to go to work.

“She was privately referred to a psychiatrist with the first appointment available in February 2023,” he said.

Drugs are prescribed to patients by GPs who don’t have a proper line of referral involving painkillers, nerve blockers or addictive pills, he added. Long Covid impact on brain ‘underestimated’ and not included in HSE treatment plan, leading doctor warns

Fry Electronics Team

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