Dear Minister D’Ath
I am writing to advocate that the state government urgently implement health measures to ensure all Queenslanders have access to treatment for chronic COVID syndrome, also known as long-COVID.
While most people completely recover from COVID-19 within a few weeks, some people – more than a third of patients according to the UK’s National Institute for Health Research – will have ongoing, long-term complications after their initial recovery.
Calling themselves “long-haulers”, these patients continue to experience at least one COVID symptom for months after their infection, with the symptoms often getting worse. These symptoms may include ongoing fatigue, shortness of breath, chest pain, and headaches. Many report ongoing cognitive processing issues, memory loss, depression, anxiety, and sleep disorders. Several studies have also found increasing evidence of lasting organ impairment in people with severe and mild COVID-19.
COVID has struck more than 400 thousand Queenslanders. Whether they had a mild cough or spent time in intensive care, thousands of these people could face long-term health concerns for months – if not years – after their infection. And it’s our society’s most vulnerable – the elderly, First Nations people, people with disabilities, and people who cannot access adequate healthcare – that will be worse-off due to long-COVID. Global research into symptoms, treatment and risk factors is still developing, with some studies suggesting that key risk factors include hospitalisation, older age, underlying conditions, mental illness and coming from a marginalised ethnic group.,
I’m calling on the state government to urgently adopt policies and measures that will mitigate the impacts of long-COVID on Queenslanders. All residents of our state deserve access to the healthcare they need to deal with any ongoing conditions they face after recovering from COVID-19.
These policies and measures include:
- A network of free, universally-accessible specialist long-COVID clinics run by Queensland Health. By bringing together doctors, nurses, physiotherapists, psychologists, dieticians, and occupational therapists, these Queensland Health-run clinics can provide the practical help long-COVID patients need. These clinics must also be accessible to people in regional and remote parts of our state.
- Setting up long-COVID clinics attached to hospitals for outpatient treatment. These clinics will ensure coronavirus patients who spend time in intensive care can access the specialist rehabilitation services they need.
- Creating culturally appropriate and community-run long-COVID clinics that cater to Queensland’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
- Provide funding for Queensland Health to train healthcare workers on detecting and treating people with post-COVID symptoms.
- Provide the resources and funding needed for Queensland Health to conduct research to guide policies and measures to deal with long-COVID.
- A statewide, publicly-available action plan on how the state government will respond to long-COVID.
I note that other jurisdictions are implementing programs for long-COVID support. The University of Canberra Hospital has established a Post-Covid Recovery Clinic. The Victorian Government has provided some online information and is encouraging people with ongoing symptoms to connect with their GP. The UK has established a network of long-COVID clinics, and specialist services for young people with long COVID.
It is up to the state to plan for and intervene in whatever turns the pandemic takes us – including long-COVID. If the state government does not adequately respond to long-COVID, I fear we may face another health crisis. I urge you, Minister, to take urgent action to ensure no Queenslander infected with COVID-19 continues to suffer unnecessarily.
Please do not hesitate to contact my office on 3724 9100 if you would like to discuss this matter in more detail.
Member for South Brisbane