Less than one year after the long-COVID clinic opened at Royal Jubilee Hospital, the province is closing it and moving three of the province’s four clinics to virtual care.
Island Health announced RJH’s clinic would open on April 22, 2022, and now has sent a letter to patients that the care would be moving online in March.
Wendy, who asked for her last name to not be used, lives in Central Saanich and just recently was able to get a spot at the Island’s only clinic after contracting COVID in January 2022 after waiting 13 months.
“I finally found out that I had a position tomorrow where I get to go see a doctor,” Wendy said. “I know there is no magic pill to get rid of this. But it was just that hope that there was something else.”
There are currently four long-COVID clinics in B.C., including one at Victoria’s Royal Jubilee Hospital, but after March, there only be one brick-and-mortar clinic at Vancouver’s St Paul’s Hospital.
Patients everywhere else, including on Vancouver Island, will see health professionals virtually, and attend classes online.
Health Minister Adrian Dix said the province is increasing its investments in clinical care, research, and support for long-COVID, and changing how it delivers those services.
“These changes were the result of the reflection of engagement with patients and clinicians. They came from the clinicians. Here’s how we can best deliver the service,” Dix said.
And he points to the decreasing number of referrals to the clinics.
From the peak in May, 2021, with 755 referrals, to just 75 referrals in the entire province in January.
Mel Cassidy contracted COVID in December of 2021, and she was not seriously ill at the time, but over the months developed long-COVID symptoms.
Living in Courtenay means her interaction with staff at the RJH clinic are online.
“They ran a series of virtual classes which were incredibly helpful,” Cassidy said. “Virtual classes to help you understand what is going on in you.”
While Cassidy says her experience with virtual care has been helpful, she’s also worried about the suddenness of the decision.
She received a letter informing her that all the clinics in B.C. would merge into one centralized clinic, she and others feel abandoned.
“It feels to me like we are getting brushed under the rug. It’s like, ‘oh, the pandemic is over. So long-COVID must be over,'” Cassidy said.
But Dix said while the number of clinics is being reduced, the budget is increasing for the province to deliver long-COVID services to approximately 4,000 British Columbians.
WATCH: ‘Very big deal’: Patients eager to access Island’s first long-COVID clinic