The authors of the case study of the successful clinic in Taranaki are calling on Te Whatu Ora to support multidisciplinary clinics for health workers suffering from Long COVID.
The study is published in the latter Briefing
from Public Health Communication Center describes the work of the multidisciplinary clinic where Te Whatu Ora staff treat.
One of the authors, Dr Jonathan Jarman, a former Taranaki health worker, says prolonged COVID is becoming a global public health challenge, with some calling it a new epidemic. “Medical workers have a high level of exposure to COVID-19. A significant number of people with the virus will experience symptoms such as fatigue and shortness of breath for many months.”
The Taranaki Long COVID Clinic was developed for staff by the Physiotherapy, Occupational Therapy and Occupational Health departments in May 2022. Workers exposed to COVID-19 are interviewed by occupational health workers 12 weeks after infection and the impact of the disease is assessed and measured. If there is mild impairment, staff receive a self-management strategy, and if symptoms are moderate or severe, more targeted care is offered. A symptom card is filled out and sent to the appropriate allied health worker.
Staff running the clinic work with national and international groups to ensure the clinic offers the right response, but Dr Jarman points out there is no dedicated funding for the service. “Most of the work to develop the service and create resources had to be done in free time.”
“The teams of occupational health and allied health professionals who have worked together to create this unique service to help people manage moderate to severe symptoms have found the experience both humbling and motivating.”
“We recommend that Te Whatu Ora acknowledge the burden of this seemingly neglected disease and properly fund services for people who are likely to have contracted prolonged COVID through their work, rather than relying on the goodwill of part-time health workers.”