How Nepean Hospital is at the forefront of tackling ‘long COVID’

The staff from Nepean Hospital’s Post COVID-19 Follow Up Service.
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Though it seems the height of the COVID pandemic is behind us, ‘long COVID’ has become an ongoing battle for many.

Luckily for Penrith residents, Nepean Hospital is again providing world class care in their Australian-first Post COVID-19 Follow Up Service.

Whilst her COVID symptoms started off mild, Donna Pritchard noticed that they neglected to waiver after her week in isolation, instead developing increasingly severe breathlessness, heart palpitations and exhaustion.

It was then that she sought out answers, despite having never heard of long COVID.

“I didn’t even know about it. I’d never heard of it, and then I went to a gastro appointment in March or April, and he referred me to the long COVID clinic, because I was having all of these symptoms,” she said.

“From there it was like, this is a real thing. I now see a physiotherapist, and they come to my house, occupational therapy keep in touch with me to help me out with the lethargy and things like that. It’s pretty full on.”

Ms Pritchard credits her improving condition to the help she’s received at Nepean Hospital’s Post COVID-19 Follow Up Service.

“With the long COVID clinic, you’re not treated like you’re just a number. They’re really on top of it, and when they speak to you, it’s not like you’re just another patient,” she said.

“They take it really seriously, and they’re really helpful, and they don’t brush anything off. Any symptom that you say you’ve got, it’s been checked out.”

This service at Nepean Hospital, which is the longest running of its kind in Australia, has been open since December 2021, with specialists working from the departments of rehabilitation, respiratory, infectious diseases and more.

Data compiled by Dr Sharon Wong, Nepean Hospital Head of Rehabilitation, from the patients who have attended the clinic, reveals that a high proportion of patients suffering from the effects of long COVID are women in their 40s and 50s.

Being that long COVID is a new condition, Dr Wong said that it’s imperative to get the message out about its incidence and potential severity.

“What can be a little more confusing about long COVID, is that there’s up to 100 symptoms so far that have been reported to be due to long COVID,” she said.

“So, people might be suffering from a vast variety of symptoms, and they’re not particularly sure what may be due to their COVID, or what might be due to some other condition.”

The service has been the saving grace for many local patients like Ms Pritchard, who have been able to access specific care, right on their doorstep.

“I think it’s wonderful that we’ve actually got access to a service like this for our local residents,” she said.

To be referred to the clinic, visit your GP.

Cassidy Pearce

Cassidy Pearce is a news and entertainment journalist with The Western Weekender. A graduate of the University of Technology Sydney, she has previously worked with Good Morning Macarthur and joined the Weekender in 2022.

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