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Long Covid clinic under review as GHA plans to scale back

St Bernard's Hospital. Photo by Eyleen Gomez.

Long Covid patients will continue to be seen by a specialist clinic for the next three months, after which the setup will be reviewed in line with the Gibraltar Health Authority’s exit strategy to scale back pandemic services.

The review of specific services geared to sufferers of long Covid comes as the GHA continues with its Covid exit strategy, which Chief Minister Fabian Picardo and the Director of Public Health, Dr Helen Carter, announced last month in a press conference at No.6 Convent Place.

Locally long Covid patients, meaning those who have symptoms more than a month after infection, had been seen in a dedicated GHA clinic that tracked the symptoms offered tailored advice.

News that the dedicated clinic may be ended has raised concern among some long Covid sufferers who feel it provided much-needed support for a condition that has puzzled doctors around the world and which science is still trying to properly understand.

One patient who has suffered debilitating long Covid symptoms for over a year told the Chronicle that the dedicated clinic provided the reassurance that their symptoms were being closely monitored and treated.

The fear is that a return to routine GP appointments could add delay to diagnosis and treatment.

“There is a lack of empathy and support [for long Covid sufferers] from the healthcare system locally, and I have had to turn to social media and speak to people from other countries to see they are facing the same limitations in their own health service,” the patient said.

“I fear that I am never going to feel like I did before I was infected with Covid-19, but I just want to feel better so that I am able to carry on with my day-to-day tasks and not have to make the choice between taking a shower or cooking or working.”

The GHA told the Chronicle that patients referred with long Covid symptoms are currently being seen in a medical clinic run by consultant physician Dr Bassill, and offered reassurance that they would continue to receive the care and support they need.

“This clinic will continue to run for at least the next three months at which time the GHA will re-evaluate the situation,” a spokesman for the GHA said.

“The additional clinical services provided by the GHA during the Covid-19 pandemic - including the long Covid clinic - are being regularly reviewed and scaled back as necessary and in line with HMGoG’s exit strategy.”

“Any long Covid patients under Dr Bassill’s care and requiring ongoing clinical support will continue to receive this support as required and in line with best practice.”

“The manner in which this support is provided may well change for operational reasons as the GHA progresses through the exit strategy.”

“The GHA reassures all patients that they will nevertheless continue to receive the necessary clinical support until this is no longer required.”

The review of the long Covid clinic follows the scaling back of Covid related GHA services.

Last month the Contact Tracing Bureau was scaled back on its operations, maintaining limited functions with a focus on protecting the most vulnerable.

Mask wearing has also been reviewed in recent months, as has rules on self-isolation and travel requirements.

Earlier this month, the Government also announced it had scaled back the reporting of Covid statistics from daily to weekly.

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