The HSE needs to urgently reassess its Long COVID plan because many Irish patients are not getting better, according to Prof Jack Lambert.
He was speaking after a new University College cork study found that 90% of people with Long COVID in Ireland have not returned to their pre-COVID level of health.
It found that the average patient was suffering from eight Long COVID symptoms – and some people have as many as 33.
The study involving 988 patients found that some have been sick for as long as 20 months – and two-thirds are still experiencing fatigue, chest pain, memory problems, stomach problems and muscle pain.
"Not getting better"
On The Pat Kenny Show this morning, UCD Professor Jack Lambert said the results echo those from previous studies, including his own.
He said the UCC once again highlights the fact that “when it comes to Long COVID patients, many of them are not getting better.”
“Everybody is a little bit different and that is the challenge,” he said.
“Some people get predominantly brain symptoms, some people get intestinal symptoms but I think the overlying theme is, there is a residual brain inflammation and a lot of the symptoms are linked to the brain inflammation.
“The cranial nerves - the nerves coming out of the brain - control the gastrointestinal tract, control the heart rate and control your blood pressure – so we need neurorehabilitation to provide support for these patients and get them on the road to recovery.”
Professor Lambert said the HSE strategy published in September 2021 focused too heavily on pulmonary complications – noting that it had funding for eight pulmonary centres and only one neurology centre.
He said the health service, “got it wrong in terms of what they’ve put together” and urged authorities to urgently reassess it.
Also on the show, athlete and Long COVID patient Davinia Anderson said she was “flying it” before COVID.
The national and world championship rower’s training gave her a unique insight into the effects of Long COVID as she had sat a vo2 max test just days before picking up the virus.
She said her results were on the “superior level of the scale,” meaning her heart was in great shape and she was “fit as a flea”.
When she sat the test after COVID, there was a stark difference.
“It was kind of a car crash,” she said.
“I lost 60% of my diaphragm function, half my breathing efficiency and a year on, I am 17% down on my oxygen transfer,” she said.
“To put that in context, when you go to altitude you are at 7% oxygen change.”
Davinia said she also suffered heart rhythm issues and chronic fatigue for seven months after picking up the virus.
Despite all that, she said she wanted to offer a “message of hope” to Long COVID patients – noting that she has made phenomenal progress in rehab in recent months.
Her rehab regime involved light cardiovascular training, use of a diaphragm retraining tube and nasal breathing exercises, which she learned from this ISEH (Institute of Sport, Exercise and Health) webinar.