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18 August 2022
Austin Health has established a multidisciplinary clinic supporting people with post-acute COVID-19 or long COVID.
The ‘ReCOVery’ clinic treats eligible patients who suffer from chronic fatigue, sleeping problems, shortness of breath and other symptoms associated with long COVID.
Clinical Lead and Dietitian, Leigh Seidel Marks, explains the service supports people who are experiencing persistent symptoms three months after a COVID-19 diagnosis.
“It is available to Austin Health patients, people who live in the Austin catchment via GP referral, and to all Austin staff members,” she adds.
One of them is Gerard Flannigan, a Hurstbridge local, who contracted COVID-19 back in July 2020.
“My whole family had COVID at the same time. I was able to spend it mostly at home, with one day at ED, while my family had even more serious symptoms,” he explains.
After spending some time off work to get better, Gerard soon realised his recovery wasn’t progressing, even after a year of contracting the virus.
“I noticed I could only do five minutes of gardening and then had to stop. My sleeping patterns were disrupted, I was only able to sleep four hours and the brain fog was still there,” he adds.
Gerard came to the new clinic through his GP and is thankful for the service and staff who have been helping him.
“I’ve been having telehealth appointments with a clinician once a month and I can see the progress. Staff are amazing, they are so invested in my recovery, and I really appreciate it. They take a personal interest. I don’t feel like I am just a number there, I feel like I am part of a group,” he adds.
Gerard is proud of the improvements in his lung capacity and fitness levels.
“I have started to sleep six hours each night, even though I have a long way to go. I am doing various exercises and going on walks, and I take notes of my progress and how I feel after each one. I can even do 15 minutes of gardening now,” he says.
Leigh says acknowledging and validating the condition and ongoing impact long COVID-19 is having on people's lives has been an important part of their recovery.
“The strategies to manage symptoms provided by the team have been lifechanging for those impacted,” she adds.
So far over 200 patients have completed the symptom impact assessment and been provided with information on independently managing symptoms of long COVID or had appointments with ReCOVery service clinicians.
With the service recently opening to GP referrals, this will allow more people who are experiencing ongoing post-acute COVID-19 symptoms to access care.
“I would like to hear more about long COVID in the media and raise awareness that a lot of people might be experiencing these symptoms, especially those who have contracted COVID before the vaccines were available,” Gerard adds.