Just 1/3rd of long Covid staff recruited up to August
Reports of the closure of the clinic dealing with neurological conditions associated with long Covid clearly contradicts commitments given by the HSE and Health Minister Stephen Donnelly. It also contradicts the growing body of research indicating the long-term challenge of the condition will be focused on neurological issues, claims Denis Naughten TD.
Symptoms of long Covid include fatigue and brain fog, which are experienced at least three months after the initial infection for significant periods of time, in some cases over two years.
“A research paper which I commissioned over the summer from the Oireachtas Library & Research Service clearly indicates it is not just cardiac and respiratory issues that long Covid patients are experiencing but many are facing neurological issues as well,” stated Denis Naughten.
This research is supported by comments by the Health Minister Stephen Donnelly in the Dáil and HSE response to a Dáil question on the need to recruit neurological consultants to treat people with long Covid.
“Despite the medical research and commitments to the Dáil, the HSE has only recruited one neurologist for long Covid patients throughout the country and the only other clinic managing patients with neurological issues at the Mater Hospital is set to close next month due to the failure to provide it with any funding.”
Professor Jack Lambert who operates the clinic at the Mater Hospital told the Oireachtas Health Committee recently that some patients with long Covid condition “act very much like patients who have experienced closed head injuries”.
Denis Naughten added: “Professor Lambert has now contacted me to say that the Mater Hospital will not be able to continue its service for long Covid patients beyond the end of September unless funding is forthcoming from the HSE, and this is even though the HSE is set to significantly underspend its allocation for long Covid clinics this year due to the ongoing delay in recruiting staff.
“In fact, just 20 of the 60 health service staff to be recruited to work with long Covid patients were recruited up to August this year, which will see an under spend of at least €1m in the Budget allocation for 2022.
“These figures are based on research published earlier this month in The Lancet by a team of researchers in the Netherlands who have attributed long Covid symptoms to 12.7% of patients infected with the SARS-CoV-2 virus and research on blood donors published last month by Ireland’s Health Protection Surveillance Centre, which indicates that 69% of adults in Ireland have been infected by the virus.
“It makes absolutely no sense whatsoever to force the closure of a clinic treating long Covid when there is going to be such a large underspend in the HSE budget for treating these patients this year. We cannot allow a situation where the very minimal services that are available are withdrawn just so HSE managers can re-allocate the ‘savings’ for their own pet project as patients suffer in silence at home without any support,” said Denis Naughten.