We would like to thank President and CEO of Hotel Dieu Grace Hospital, Janice Kaffer for speaking to us about the effects of “Long COVID” and what HDGH is doing to help those in our community who are dealing with the effects.
Janice explained that 2.5 – 10% of people who have had COVID continue to experience symptoms for longer than 12 weeks. These symptoms can include; hair loss, menstrual changes, shortness of breath, cough, loss of taste and smell, body aches, headaches, tinnitus, brain fog, difficulty sleeping, vision changes/ vertigo, racing heart, numbness, skin sensitivities, “COVID toes”, depression, anxiety/PTSD.
She also explained that life after COVID can look different, when it comes to returning to work, school, caring for their families, socializing, caring for themselves and returning to an active lifestyle.
It’s hard to know who will suffer from long COVID symptoms and what pattern the symptoms will take - some peoples symptoms fluctuate, gets worse due to stress, flares can happen 24-48 hours after a triggering event.
Medical complications post-covid-19 include:
Heart/blood vessel problems
Kidney problems
Lung problems
Brain and nerve problems (fatigue, headaches, remembering)
Skin problems
Mental health concerns
Among others.
The question they get asked most often by those who are recovered but still suffering is. “Will I ever get better?” The answer Janice shared with us was that “Symptoms CAN improve but it takes time, it takes a lot of work. Patients need to be committed.”
The COVID Recovery Program offers individualised education, treatment, and support for patients who are experiencing any number of chronic conditions following a diagnosis of covid-19. The treatment is provided by an inter-professional teams of health care professionals in an outpatient setting at HDGH or virtually. The Psychiatric care available to post-COVID patients is unique to HDGH.
HDGH is not funded for long COVID but they, like other hospitals in our region have pooled funds from their existing funding in order to help these members of our community. However, that means that they have to count on their community partners to “pick-up where other hospitals can’t.”
Hotel-Dieu accepted Post-COVID referrals from Bluewater, Chatham and Erie Shores and there is no cost to any patients for this service.
The Covid Recovery Programs hopes to enhance knowledge and awareness about the disease, improve self-management skills, improve daily function, quality of life and coping skills to help with stressors and improve caregiver competency.
One of the things healthcare staff do in this program is reassure patients that it’s not their fault that they don’t feel well. Participants of this program in Windsor are typical 30-60 years old and have been referred to the program.  Typically, reasons for referrals include persistent fatigue, headache and mental health concerns, come patients have opted for the virtual option and are being contacted by the Occupational therapist.