Patients are now waiting an average of 15 weeks to access long Covid clinics in hospitals across the country, with the longest wait of 35 weeks for patients trying to access the clinic at Tallaght Hospital, local Independent Deputy, Denis Naughten has stated.
Symptoms of long Covid include fatigue and brain fog, which are experienced at least three months after the initial infection for significant periods of time, with some patients experiencing symptoms in some cases for over three years.
The HSE has been operating a number of clinics for 2,740 patients referred during 2022 - who have failed to recover from Covid - through both post-acute Covid clinics and long Covid clinics in 10 hospitals across the country.
“It’s important to note that referrals to these clinics only take place when the symptoms associated with long Covid, such as fatigue and memory problems, persist for at least 12 weeks and GPs have excluded all other potential causes of such symptoms.
“In practical terms this means that patients can wait for up to a year to see a specialist at some of the long Covid centres being established across the country, with a particular problem in the Dublin region where there is an average 28 week wait in St. Vincent’s and 20 week wait at James Connolly Hospital,” Deputy Naughten said.
The wait times are based on the latest available figures provided for Covid clinics which relate to 2022.
When compared to figures for August 2022 waiting time to access specialists at St Vincent’s Hospital has gone down from 42 weeks to 28 weeks yet at the same time patients referred to Tallaght have seen the waiting times go from 26 weeks to 35 weeks with both Cork and Galway Covid clinics seeing a reduction in waiting times to 9 and 11 weeks, respectively.
“Disappointingly, while the waiting times have eased at some Covid clinics, overall there was a 15% increase in the number of patients waiting to see a specialist for the first time at 763 patients, with half of the funding allocated for the operation of the clinics unspent at the end of last year.
“It’s clear that despite the increase in the number of long Covid clinics more patients are being referred for specialist management of their condition as a result of chronic and ongoing illness because of their failure to make a recovery from Covid with thousands more suffering in silence with more moderate symptoms,” the Deputy concluded.