In the first major parliamentary debate on the impact of long COVID in Ireland, Deputy Peter Fitzpatrick and his colleagues in the Regional Group of TDs will table a Dáil motion this morning (Wednesday) seeking the roll out of specialist services to support those who have failed to make a full recovery after being infected with the SARS-CoV-2 virus.
While most people will make a full and quick recovery from COVID 19, some adults and children, can continue to experience ongoing symptoms or can have a relapse after an initial recovery, and these symptoms can persist for several months or even years.
Long COVID is an umbrella name given to a broad range of some 200 post COVID symptoms which include conditions such as chronic fatigue and brain fog, which are experienced at least three months after the initial infection for significant periods of time, in some cases for over two years.
From an analysis based on research conducted in Ireland and the Netherlands some 336,451 adults nationally are likely to be or have suffered some form of long COVID, with an estimated 21,000 people being so unwell that they are unfit to work.
Even with a small proportion of these long COVID patients presenting to our health service with complex health conditions, in already overcrowded emergency departments and GP surgeries, they will overwhelm our health service as we face into serious winter overcrowding.
Deputy Fitzpatrick, along with the Regional Group, believe that unless we address this challenge of long COVID in a comprehensive way, in tandem with measures to reduce spread of COVID 19 (including the rollout of Evusheld to those who are immune-compromised), we will sleepwalk our health service into a crisis of chronic illness. This will push people waiting on treatments since before the pandemic even further down already horrendous waiting lists.
Deputy Fitzpatrick also wants to see long COVID recognised as an occupational illness and a comprehensive special leave with pay scheme for frontline healthcare workers as well as the expansion of services for other similar illnesses such as M.E. and chronic fatigue syndrome.