New Brunswick will participate in a national roundtable on protracted COVID-19 in early June and look at different models of care, says the province’s acting deputy chief medical officer of health.
For a long time, COVID has been “a topic of great interest” in New Brunswick, said Dr. Yves Leger.
“We know that a significant proportion of COVID cases are affected,” he said.
How many and for how long “is not yet clear”.
“We still don’t have an official case definition of what long COVID is or isn’t,” Léger said.
“But we know it’s pretty debilitating for some people. It can certainly affect their quality of life and in some cases even their ability to work.”
Early reports from the World Health Organization showed that 10 to 20 percent of people infected with the virus would continue to have symptoms of a long COVID. But earlier this month, Dr. Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam said more recent research suggests it could be as much as half.
“Pretend COVID didn’t exist for a long time”
New Brunswick has been criticized by the public and opposition politicians for being slow to address — or even acknowledging — the problem.
Lisa Cranke, who says she has had long-COVID for more than two years, argues provinces “need to do better to help long-COVID patients”.
“In fact NB is acting like COVID is long gone,” she posted on Twitter.
People like her “are suffering and need help and approval,” she wrote.
@Gov_NB You really need to get better at it #longcovid-Patients at #newbrunswick #nbpoli @nb_docs We are suffering and need help and approval. NB doctors also need guidance on how to help patients. I have long had Covid for 2 years now and NB is doing nothing to help! https://t.co/KU3ilZdt2l
On a day earlier this month, Cranke said she was so tired she could barely get out of bed. The next day her head was pounding and the pressure was so bad that she could hardly think.
Just standing gets her heart rate up to 160 beats per minute, she said, and she shakes and has tremors.
“I know there is no cure for long COVID yet, but at the very least it should be recognized as a serious illness and disability so patients can get the help they need when symptoms prevent them from working,” Cranke wrote.
Doctors also need guidance on how to help patients, she added.
Green Party leader David Coon said he had “no faith… in government or in health [department] actually pay attention to long COVID.
“And that’s going to be brutal for all too many people,” he said.
Looking for the best way to move forward
But Léger claims “it’s early days”.
“We’re, you know, committed to looking at this to really try and take action to better care for those individuals in the future,” he said.
The national roundtable will review models used elsewhere that “appear promising”.
For example, some provinces have specialized long COVID clinics involving multiple different disciplines of care providers.
“I’m still not sure whether these are the best models or not, and whether they offer the best level of care,” Léger said.
“Hopefully we can learn more at this national roundtable to give us more information to consider how best to move forward in New Brunswick.”
Last week Health Secretary Dorothy Shephard told reporters that work on Long COVID is ongoing.
“It’s always been on my radar,” she said.
A group of Moncton scientists is trying to gather as much information as possible about the symptoms, what patients need to recover and the risk factors.
“It’s all relatively new. So data is still being collected. And we will work with ours [regional health authority] Partners and those who have long been on top of COVID to see how we need to move forward,” Shephard said.
National survey launched
In Nova Scotia, in August 2021, the government launched MyCOVIDRecoveryNS.ca, a website with the most up-to-date information available on how to manage or treat the ongoing symptoms of COVID-19.
Ontario released a report last month on a review of its long COVID situation.
The Public Health Agency of Canada and Statistics Canada have launched a survey to get a general idea of how common it is for people to experience lingering effects after being infected with COVID-19.
“We probably anticipate that the impact of Long COVID will be quite significant,” said Chief Public Health Officer, Dr. Teresa Tam.
The health agency says more than 100 symptoms related to the condition have been reported.
The most common, according to PHAC, are fatigue, memory problems, anxiety, depression and even post-traumatic stress disorder.