A new clinic at Montreal's Jewish General Hospital is taking up the fight against long COVID, and within a week of opening, 40 patients have came through its doors in search of help.
"Not only does it affect people with their physical well-being but also from a psychological point of view: when you're not able to work, when you're always tired, when you're not able to take care of your children," said Lucie Tremblay, the associate CEO of the city's west-central health authority.
Patients at the new clinic have persistent symptoms like shortness of breath, fatigue and brain fog. Part of the clinic's mission is to learn about the condition while helping patients get through it.
Dr. Karl Weiss, chief of infectious diseases at the Jewish General, says most people recover fully within a few weeks of getting COVID, but some — even those with mild versions of the disease — might have symptoms lasting for a long time afterward.
These symptoms, which can vary in intensity from day to day, can be disabling, making it difficult to perform daily activities or to return to work or school.
But the interdisciplinary clinic isn't only for patients dealing with lasting COVID-19 symptoms. It is also for those with Lyme disease, a condition Quebec is seeing more often as tick populations multiply.
"We are responding to a growing need and are ensuring that people with either of these debilitating illnesses will receive the best treatment possible," Dr. Lawrence Rosenberg, president and CEO of the CIUSSS du Centre-Ouest-de-l'Île-de-Montréal in the news release.
"At the same time, research represents an important component of this initiative, and I am confident we will gain a better understanding of both long COVID syndrome and Lyme disease, which bodes well for the future."
The complexity of long COVID and Lyme disease requires the expertise of professionals in several specialties, the news release says.
That means ensuring there are heath-care professionals like nurses, specialized physicians, physiotherapists and social workers in person or available virtually to assist the clinic's patients.
The clinic will offer care to patients with Lyme disease whose symptoms persist after standard treatment has ended, the release says.
The new clinic has a budget to operate for three years. Interested patients need to get a referral from a family doctor or a nurse practitioner.
Weiss said long COVID research and knowledge is merging and rapidly evolving.
The goal, he explained, is to establish a referral centre to provide patients with leading-edge care while improving their understanding of the disease.
"We're learning about this process," he said. "We are certainly going to learn a lot more in the next few years. What is causing long COVID, who is at risk, why some people and not others, what we can do to help these people."