The federal government is developing a national long-term Covid strategy, with a parliamentary inquiry hearing the situation has led to job losses and homelessness among some of the victims.
Chief Medical Officer, Professor Paul Kelly, said the federal Department of Health had been tasked with developing a national long-term Covid strategy that would cover prevention, vaccination, treatment and research into the condition.
“It’s going well,” Kelly said at a public hearing on Friday, though he added that the strategy would not be finalized until the health department had a more detailed understanding of the long-term Covid and frequent Covid-19 cases. Advice is not available after parliamentary inquiry into infections.
Speaking at the inquiry’s third public hearing on Friday, Labor MP Dr Michelle Anand-King said: “I think we’ll probably land on a recommendation that we clearly need national guidelines … and maybe living guidelines that continues to evolve as the data is coming in.”
Long Covid-affected people told of months-long waits to see specialists and inquiries about medical professionals dismissing their symptoms.
The administrator of the Australia Long Covid Community Facebook group said some of their members have lost their jobs and are homeless because of the situation.
Dr Su Mon Kyaw-myint, a population health researcher and one of the group’s administrators, said she waited five months to go to a long Covid clinic despite the risks, because she has a rare form of muscular dystrophy.
“Everything’s so silent,” she said. “You get referred to so many specialists, specialists straight to GPs … sometimes you wait six months to see a specialist and then you don’t even speak to the specialist again.”
Associate Professor Nada Hamad, a doctor who shared her own experiences of prolonged Covid, described the treatment of people with the condition as “a failure of the system”. Hamad experienced episodes of shortness of breath, cardiac symptoms and fainting after several mild Covid infections.
“Doctors will say things. You need to lose weight, maybe it’s just fitness, you need to exercise more,” Hamad said. “I would say — the moment I get out of bed, my heart rate’s at 160. it occurs [beats per minute], I’m a runner, my normal heart rate is in the 50s.
“I’ve heard many times – it’s just psychological, exercise will definitely fix it, you just need to get fitter, your blood tests look fine. You look fine. That’s all I heard, and They should not have suffered.
The lack of data about long Covid in Australia was repeatedly raised as a concern during the hearing. Dr Jason Agostino, a senior medical adviser at the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation, told the inquiry that “there was no clear evidence on long-term Covid cases among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people – most jurisdictions based their long-term presentations on Has not shared data.Covid clinics by indigenous status”.
Kelly said that “there is a need for a clear definition that can be useful for diagnosing Covid in the long run. The ones we are using at the moment – the WHO definition, the UK’s NICE definition, they are great for research purposes.” Because they are very broad.
“What data do you actually collect when you get a new disease with 200 different symptoms, with a variety of tests that are being done in different places in different ways? … It’s very complex.” is,” he said.
Dr Ruth Vine, deputy chief medical officer for mental health, was asked about the long-term psychological effects of Covid, she said, “One of the most important things is to really give people … hope of recovery. “
But Robin Austin, administrator of the Long Covid Facebook group, said, “Yes, hope is important.” But without that information, without that knowledge, without the effort to diagnose… hope is in the void. To me, and to a lot of people, it sucks.”
Penelope McMillan, a spokeswoman for Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (ME/CFS) Australia, said she was not surprised by the testimonies from people with long Covid.
“People with post viral illness – we are not new. This is not new. I have had ME/CFS for 25 years, and the stories are all too familiar.”
The inquiry is on.