Long COVID up for discussion

Since COVID-19 landed on our shores in early 2020, it has reshaped many aspects of our health care system. Almost three years later our attention is also focussed on long COVID, and its impact.

Long COVID is commonly used to describe the symptoms that persist or develop more than four weeks after contracting COVID-19, with the likely incidence of long COVID in Australia still evolving with ongoing research.  An ANU study published in October 2022, found  around 14 per cent of Australians experienced symptoms that lasted longer than four weeks and 5 per cent still had symptoms for three months or more.

While anyone can become ill with long COVID symptoms, those most disadvantaged and vulnerable are likely to be most at risk. As a consequence of long COVID, the number of people presenting with new chronic diseases may increase and those with existing chronic conditions, including mental health conditions, may find their conditions worsening.

Deferred care will also provide challenges for primary care with delayed cancer and cardiovascular screening, and late presentations of those with newly developed chronic conditions.

WA Primary Health Alliance’s recently published Long COVID Discussion Paper articulates our current and future role in supporting primary care providers in the ongoing management of long COVID from a population health and primary care perspective.

WAPHA General Manager Strategy and Engagement, Chris Kane, said for the past two years WAPHA has provided a comprehensive PHN response to managing the COVID-19 pandemic. At first with the vaccination program, dissemination of information and clinical advice during the acute response phase and now through provision of equipment and delivering services as part of the Living with COVID program.

“We are now facing the recovery and transition phase, as well as understanding how long COVID is impacting people and how the primary care system can support them.

“WAPHA has a role to play as an employer, in primary care support and development, as a commissioner, collaborator and advocate as well as providing up to date information as it comes to hand.

“We appreciate this is an evolving and changing environment and our role will continue to be iterative and responsive.”

Read the Long COVID Discussion Paper.