Health professionals across B.C. are coming together to tackle the emerging need for post COVID-19 care and recovery.
Although most people recover from COVID-19 within 14 days, research suggests 2.5 to 10 per cent of those infected may experience symptoms lasting weeks or months past their initial illness. Sometimes called “long COVID,” the lingering symptoms are varied, and can include extreme fatigue, muscle weakness, dizziness, depression, brain fog, and heart, lung, or kidney disease.
In addition to supporting clinics and developing patient resources, one key feature of the network is providing health professionals across B.C. with data, best practices and specialist expertise to support their own patients recovering from COVID-19.
Dr. Jesse Greiner, medical director of the provincial network’s Post COVID-19 Recovery Clinic at St. Paul’s Hospital, says sharing data among health professionals and across disciplines is a major priority. “We've all been working closely to make sure communication is happening to boost the capacity and educate all of the health professionals involved in these complex post COVID-19 cases.”
Post COVID-19 care expertise is available to health professionals around B.C. during business hours Monday to Friday, through the Rapid Access to Consultative Experts (RACE) phone line and app.
“The RACE line is an innovation first developed at-St-Paul's, to give physicians and nurse practitioners in even the most remote corners of our province finger-tip access to a wide variety of specialists, located in different areas of the province," says Dr. Adeera Levin, provincial lead for the network and executive director of BC Renal. “The goal for this specific RACE service is to help triage and manage those patients who have persistent post-COVID symptoms"
Health professionals can submit urgent post-COVID questions to the RACE app, or use the electronic Consultative Access to Specialist Expertise (eCASE) for e-consults within seven days. Both services are funded in partnership by Doctors of BC and the BC government through the Shared Care Committee.
Since the post-COVID RACE line was introduced last July, it’s received hundreds of questions from family physicians and nurses about post COVID-19 care.
Each call is answered by a Post COVID-19 clinic specialist - Dr. Greiner based at Providence Health Care, Dr. Zachary Schwartz at Vancouver Coastal Health or Dr. Peter Birks at Fraser Health.
The goal is to share what the provincial network of clinics is learning in real-time and help family physicians, nurses and other health professionals feel equipped to support their patients.
Dr. Terry Chang, a family physician based in Vancouver, says this support network has been vital in helping physicians navigate and manage post-COVID complications in partnership with their patients.
“One of my patients has been experiencing lingering effects of COVID - strenuous headaches - which have affected her daily routine,” says Dr. Chang. “The supports available from the COVID RACE line has assisted both me, the physician, and her during this difficult time.”
In the coming months, the Post COVID-19 Interdisciplinary Clinical Care Network aims to bolster evidence-informed care for patients from primary care providers and interdisciplinary specialist teams.
“This network ensures that B.C. patients not only have access to effective, efficient care, but also that we have a province-wide approach to learning more about how best to manage this new condition,” says Dr. Levin.