Three clinics devoted to helping COVID-19 patients recover from the long-term effects are now open at Vancouver General Hospital (VGH), St. Paul’s Hospital (SPH), and the Jim Pattison Outpatient Care and Surgery Centre in Surrey.

The clinics provide an opportunity for patients to receive specialized care and allow for specialists to further understand the long-term adverse effects of COVID-19. The clinics connect patients with a network of specialists, allied health professionals and subspecialists through a mix of on-site and telehealth-enabled appointments.

Dr. Zachary Schwartz, internist and physician lead of the VGH clinic, says, “We quickly identified the need to learn more about the potential long-term effects of those suffering from COVID-19 in order to provide the support needed to British Columbians. The clinics will offer standardized assessments, education, and opportunities to participate in research studies. The network of clinics will allow us to learn from each other, understand patients’ journeys in more detail, and provide the expert level of care expected.”

Funding for the clinics came from various sources including a generous $75,000 donation from TB Vets Charitable Foundation to support the ongoing post COVID-19 recovery research studies at VGH and St. Paul’s Hospital.

“COVID-19 continues to impact lives globally, and we at TB Vets are honoured to be one of the firsts to support great initiatives such as this. We look forward to seeing the positive impact this research will have on Canadians,” says Kandys Merola, CEO of TB Vets Charitable Foundation

Research is a key component of this network, particularly since the clinics have thus far seen the small percentage of patients who were hospitalized with severe COVID-19. One early joint VGH – SPH – UBC study showing more than half of participants had abnormal breathing tests three months after they first started feeling sick with COVID-19. Further examination with CT scans showed one in five had lung scarring, which is permanent damage that will lead to compromised lung function.

“COVID-19 presents a special opportunity for research — we are leveraging the unprecedented focus on a single threat to bring together investigators and patients, who would otherwise be isolated, to create and mobilize new insights to benefit our community and beyond,” adds Dr. Chris Carlsten, Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH) Scientific Director of Legacy for Airway Health and professor of medicine and head of the division of respiratory medicine at UBC.

Post-COVID-19 care expertise is also available to medical practitioners around the province, usually within the same day, through the Rapid Access to Consultative Experts phone line. In addition, educational materials are being developed to support patients and physicians.

The clinics are currently seeing COVID-19 patients who are discharged from hospital, as well as those referred by other physicians.