Hôtel-Dieu Grace Healthcare has launched a new program to help people who are suffering from the lingering effects of COVID-19 weeks or months after their diagnosis.
The COVID Recovery Program, which the hospital announced on Thursday, will offer education, treatment and support for those experiencing chronic conditions after a COVID-19 diagnosis, often dubbed COVID-19 long-haulers.
As Dr. Jeff Cohen explained Friday on CBC Radio's Windsor Morning, scientists are still studying the new disease and its long-term impacts, but common symptoms include brain fog, shortness of breath, inflammation of the heart muscles and profound fatigue.
"There are long lasting effects in significant numbers of people who have been infected," said Cohen, who is the medical director for restorative care at the hospital.
"It looks like about 10 per cent of people — even with mild disease — are going to have persistent symptoms for many, many months if not years after the infection."
By that estimate, the number of people experiencing the long-term effects of COVID-19 could be as high as 1,700 in Windsor-Essex, as 16,846 COVID-19 cases have been diagnosed locally since the start of the pandemic.
For long-haulers, the inability to resume normal life also has psychological effects, and can lead to conditions such as depression and anxiety, Cohen said. Mental health support is also part of the program.
As a hospital specializing in rehabilitation, Cohen said Hôtel-Dieu "has a lot to offer" people who are recovering from the coronavirus.
"Even if we can't cure them, we can certainly help them learn to cope and improve the quality of their lives," he said.
The COVID Recovery Program can be accessed through a referral from a family doctor.