General practitioners across Australia are urging lawmakers not to forget about patients suffering from long COVID, as ongoing treatment continues to add pressure to the health system.
“This is welcome recognition of what GPs across Australia know: we are the first port of call for patients with long COVID, and we are seeing more cases every day,” RACGP President Dr Nicole Higgins said.
The issues paper seeks to cement an agreed definition of a long COVID diagnosis, so GPs can properly manage patient care.
Patients suffering from long COVID experience a range of symptoms including fatigue, breathlessness, anxiety and depression, chest pain and “brain fog”.
They can also experience changes to their taste and smell which can last for weeks or months after the initial illness.
“Currently, Australia doesn’t have an agreed definition of long COVID, which is essential to support GPs in diagnosing patients and managing their ongoing care,” Higgins said.
“It is essential to ensure we get the most accurate snapshot of this condition and how to help those affected.”
Higgins said that Medicare reform is a key factor in supporting patients with long COVID.
“We know people across the country are missing out on the care they need because Medicare does not adequately support patients with long COVID,” she said.
“These patients require complex care, and this takes time.
“But the current patient rebate structure disincentivises GPs to spend more time with patients with multiple, complex conditions, including those with long COVID.”
The report also calls for increased research funding for GPs, increased medical access for rural and regional areas, dedicated long COVID clinics and a long-term plan for treating COVID-19.
Answers to the most commonly Googled questions about COVID-19