A WARNING has been issued about the impact of long Covid on the health system, with new figures suggesting that over 30,000 people in the Midwestern region are impacted.
Medical experts have outlined that up to 200 symptoms are linked to the condition, which persist from between three months and two years of contracting Covid-19.
Data compiled by Independent TD Denis Naughten suggest that 8,368 people in Clare have long Covid, with chronic symptoms that including brain fog, cognitive issues, exhaustion, sleeplessness, and other psychological and physical difficulties. The figures are based on an analysis of data from the Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC), showing that there had been 41,055 positive PCR tests taken in this county, up to August 10.
The long Covid estimate for County Limerick is 14,317; while for Tipperary, it is 10,511.
Deputy Naughten has provided the first analysis and county-by-county breakdown of the 336,451 adults nationally who are likely to be suffering from long Covid based on research conducted in Ireland and the Netherlands.
“The reality is that such a large number of long Covid patients presenting to our health service with complex health conditions will overwhelm our hospitals as we begin to plan for a winter of hospital overcrowding,” the Roscommon-Galway TD said. “In addition these services will be put under considerable pressure due to recurring waves of further Covid-19 illness.
Deputy Naughten highlighted work done by Professor Jack Lambert and presented to the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Health last month, calling for dedicated services for those with long Covid. “We cannot just sleepwalk into a crisis of chronic illness, which will push people waiting on treatments since before the pandemic even further down already horrendous waiting lists,” Deputy Naughten said. “We need to see this surge of long Covid patients managed with a co-ordinated response from Government, which based on responses that I have received previously has not been forthcoming.”
The figures were described by Deputy Naughten as “just staggering”. “Dublin has the highest number of patients suffering the long-term effects of Covid-19 with 100,650, with County Leitrim at the other end of the scale with 2,075 patients,” he outlined. “However, by population County Carlow has the most patients with long Covid at 4,750 yet their neighbours in County Wicklow having the lowest incidence of long Covid by population at 8,636, followed closely by County Wexford at 9,093.”
The figures are based on research published earlier this month in The Lancet by a team of researchers in the Netherlands. They found long Covid symptoms in 12.7% of patients infected with the SARS-CoV-2 virus. Research on blood donors published last month by Ireland’s HPSC indicates that 69% of adults in Ireland have been infected by the virus.
“In fact, The Lancet paper has described long Covid as ‘the next public health disaster in the making’, which clearly indicates that Government must now treat this illness and the patients with it as a matter of the utmost priority,” Denis Naughten said.
Notwithstanding the impact of long Covid, the latest figures from the National Treatment Purchase Fund (NTPF) already show significant pressure on hospital waiting lists in this region.
Data updated in July show more than 38,000 people awaiting outpatient appointments at University Hospital Limerick (ULH); and 1,571 at Ennis General Hospital.
Fiona McGarry joined The Clare Champion as a reporter after a four-year stint as producer of Morning Focus on Clare FM. Prior to that she worked for various radio, print and online titles, including Newstalk, Maximum Media and The Tuam Herald.
Fiona’s media career began in her native Mayo when she joined Midwest Radio. She is the maker of a number of radio documentaries, funded by the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI). She has also availed of the Simon Cumbers Media Fund to report on development issues supported by Irish Aid in Haiti.
She won a Justice Media Award for a short radio series on the work of Bedford Row Project, which supports prisoners and families in the Mid-West. Fiona also teaches on the Journalism programmes at The University of Galway.
If you have a story and would like to get in touch with Fiona you can email her at email@example.com or telephone 065 6864146.