What medical experts at the Post COVID-19 Syndrome Clinic located at Oakville Trafalgar Memorial Hospital have come to realize, over time, is the extent of the diversity of symptoms experienced by these patients, who no longer test positive for the virus but still suffer from some of its effects.

Also, the clinic, located in the hospital’s Outpatient Rehabilitation area, has found that patients benefit most from treatments that offer long-term symptom management, said Dr. Greg Thomson, medical director, Rehab, Geriatrics, Transitions and Integrated Care, Halton Healthcare.

Since opening last June, the clinic has treated 20 patients ranging in age from early 20s to 76 years of age — most being middle aged — and an equal number of men and women.

“Patients enrolled in the clinic have specific issues identified for treatment including chronic fatigue, memory problems, inability to multi-task, muscle weakness, shortness of breath and joint pain. That said, we do see a varied set of symptoms, with brain health and symptoms related to it being among the most common,” added Jody Strik, director, Transitions, Integrated Care and Rehab Clinics, Halton Healthcare.

The “connected team approach” provided, means patients have had access to neuro rehabilitation-trained physiotherapists, occupational therapists and speech language pathologists, among others, said Strik.

“We’ve also come to see patients appear in two separate presentations, or groups,” said Thomson. “There are those with critical illness syndrome who were hospitalized for COVID, and another group of those (who) weren’t hospitalized, but still require a lot of specialized care.”

Regardless of the patient’s clinical background, however, the importance of multidisciplinary support is integral to address the very diverse needs of these patients, added Thomson.

Treatment is based on a multidisciplinary intervention program developed by an Alberta Health Services task force and includes exercise training, education and behavioural modification designed to improve the physical, cognitive, psychological and social symptoms.

“I think where we’ve made the biggest impact is in validating that what they’re experiencing is very real,” said Strik.

Patients have been empowered with treatment, as well as ways they can self-manage their symptoms in the longer-term, she said.

“We’ve been able to give them a broad multidisciplinary approach and help them feel and function better,” said Strik.

Going forward, a lot more evidence-based interventions will be needed to fully support patients with Post COVID-19 Syndrome, said Thomson.

The Halton Healthcare outpatient clinic supports the treatment of patients from local communities, however, it has received inquiries and referrals from as far away as Sarnia and Barrie, said Strik.

 

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