Long covid #5: Managing it from your clinic

3 minute read

A GP opened a long covid clinic at his family medical centre to meet the ‘crying need’ for treatment.

Dr James Zhang, an early career GP, saw the huge demand for long covid clinics so he decided to start one himself. 

He says the skills and resources needed to manage long covid are well within GPs’ scope – more, even, than hospitals’.  

As our guest on The Tea Room this week Dr Zhang explains how the clinic operates; from the assessment and management guidelines* he uses, right through to billing and referral partnerships. 

Dr Zhang was inspired to create a long covid clinic in the suburbs after working as senior clinician at the virtual St Vincent’s hospital covid unit until July this year. Seeing the massive demand for long covid treatment he has partnered with Dr Gary Frank at Shire Family Medical and created a suburban long covid clinic in Sutherland NSW. Dr Zhang reckons family GP clinics are the perfect place for most long covid patients to get treated. 

“As GPs we know our patients better and have the capacity to journey with a patient in a more sustained long-term process than in hospital. We also have the ability to reach out to various allied health, we can draft up mental health care plans and GP management care plans,” Dr Zhang says. 

Wait time at the few long covid clinics Australia are lengthy. Dr Zhang says the longer people have to wait for treatment the more likely they are to pursue unverified, alternative remedies.  

“There’s a crying need for long covid treatment. And it’s been extremely rewarding work for the patients that we’ve looked after to date,” he says. 

Dr Zhang shares a case study about a patient with asthma who had worsening dyspnoea post covid. After exploring a long list of investigations Dr Zhang discovered two, very small peripheral pulmonary emboli in the patient’s lungs. 

“Needless to say, she was referred to the respiratory physician and she’s now on anticoagulants, but we only picked up on that because we actually took the time to acknowledge what was going on. You never know just what you’re going to get with long covid so you want to take a very broad approach in a very holistic mindset,” Dr Zhang says. 

*Resources Dr Zhang mentions in this episode: 

Assessment tool: COVID-19 Yorkshire Rehabilitation Screening (C19-YRS) 

Agency for Clinical Innovation guidelines: Clinical practice guide for assessment and management of adults with post-acute sequelae of COVID-19 

St. Vincent’s long covid clinic investigation requirements.  Select the dropdown option ‘Long Covid Outpatients Clinic’. 

You can listen and subscribe to the show by searching for “The Tea Room Medical Republic” in your favourite podcast player.

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