Long COVID is going to being the Irish health service to its knees without urgent action from Government, according to Independent TD Denis Naughten.
The Roscommon-Galway TD has published a fresh analysis in which he claims over 335,000 people in Ireland are likely to be suffering from Long COVID.
He arrived at the figure by combining a recent HPSC study which indicates that 69% of people in Ireland have been infected by COVID with a new Lancet study suggesting 12.7% of COVID patients suffer Long COVID symptoms.
The analysis does not account for the fact that a significant proportion of the 336,450 people it estimates to have suffered from Long COVID will have already recovered.
According to the World Health Organisation, symptoms of Long COVID are defined as symptoms that set in within three months of initial COVID infection and last for at least two months.
The symptoms are known to last for up to two years.
On Breakfast Briefing this morning, Deputy Naughten said Ireland is simply not prepared for the thousands of people who are suffering symptoms such as fatigue and brain fog after COVID.
“We have a very significant and growing problem with long COVID at the moment,” he said.
“We’re looking at 336,000 people who are likely to have long COVID and present to our health services.
“These are people that are presenting with cardiac issues, breathing and lung issues but also have more longer-term issues in relation to fatigue and brain fog.
“This is having a huge impact in terms of pressure on GPs, with patients presenting there but also on employers because a lot of these people are not able to continue to work or hold down a full-time job like they did in the past.
“This has huge implications, not just for our health service but right across the economy.”
Deputy Naughten said Long COVID patients have “very complex needs” and GPs are currently adding to HSE waiting lists by “referring them piecemeal to different specialist consultants.”
This is happening while the HSE struggles to respond to the backlog in appointments left by lockdown and prepares for a winter surge in the virus.
“All of that combined is going to leave our health service on its knees unless we have a clear strategy from Government,” said Deputy Naughten.
“Government has promised for the last 12 months that they would put specific long COVID clinics in place. They have not been delivered as yet.
“Our health service is already at breaking point. It cannot deal with this type of additional pressure and there is an urgency now to put specific clinics in place to deal with the issues of long COVID, work with those people and ensure they can return to employment and productive lives as quickly as possible.”
Deputy Naughten said the Government must now treat Long COVID “with exact same urgency as we dealt with COVID-19 itself.”