HE the Minister of Public Health Dr Hanan Mohamed al-Kuwari visited the Post-Covid Inpatient Unit established in the Qatar Rehabilitation Institute (QRI) to offer a holistic programme to patients with more severe Covid-19 symptoms to help in their recovery.
She visited two patients currently receiving care in QRI following episodes of severe Covid-19. In each case the prolonged illness and severity of symptoms has led to the patients experiencing reduced lung capacity and muscle atrophy resulting in decreased endurance.
The patients have been through months of hospitalisation, including periods in intensive care on a ventilator, and now require extensive rehabilitation to build their strength and regain mobility function. Both patients told the minister that they never thought anyone could get so ill with this virus and praised the care they received in QRI.
HE Dr al-Kuwari expressed her joy that these patients are now recovering and said: “While the majority of patients recover well from the Covid-19 infection, there are some who have significant long-term health consequences. To reduce the risk of chronic Covid-19 syndrome, we urge the public to get vaccinated as soon as they have the opportunity to do so, particularly those who are 60 or older and those with chronic health conditions as they are more at risk of serious illness from this disease. In addition, I urge anyone who is experiencing Covid-19 symptoms to go to their healthcare facility or call the national hotline on 16000 to avoid deterioration of their health condition.”
The first patient, a 65-year-old male was first admitted with severe Covid-19 symptoms in September 2020. He was finally transferred to QRI for rehabilitation in early February 2021 but still continues to require additional oxygen and experiences weakness.
The other patient, a 56-year-old male, has been in hospital for over a month and is still experiencing extreme fatigue. “I thank God that I have survived Covid-19 and pray for strength to get me through this next period of recovery, which is slow because I have very low energy and my muscles are so weak. Before my experience, I was unaware that the virus could affect people in this way and for such a prolonged period of time.”
Patients who have been in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) due to Covid-19 can experience post-intensive care syndrome (PICS) which involves health problems that may persist after discharge from the unit. Dr Hanadi al-Hamad, Qatar national lead for Healthy Ageing and medical director at the QRI, advised that post-Covid patients often face key challenges during their treatment period: “In line with findings from around the world, we have experienced that patients with severe Covid-19 symptoms are more likely to experience ongoing general body weakness, cognitive or brain dysfunction, and even mental health conditions after they have recovered from the initial Covid-19 infection. This is especially prevalent for patients who have been in a coma in an ICU.”
“The timeliness of this facility has benefited several post-Covid-19 patients who have relied on professional rehabilitation to help them recover their mobility following a protracted period of illness with more severe symptoms. We have had several patients who transferred to QRI from one of the intensive care units in a Covid-19 facility. Although these patients no longer had the virus, the severity of the illness, especially if they were in an induced coma to be mechanically ventilated, has led to significant physical deterioration that requires special therapies, including physical, occupational and speech therapy, for the patient to regain basic skills,” added Dr al-Hamad.
Dr Rafat Saad, chairperson of the Adult Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Programme at QRI, explained that the Post-Covid Inpatient Unit offers a place for patients to recover from the serious complications of the disease.
“The focus is on the recovery of patients who no longer have Covid-19 but experience resulting healthcare problems, including delirium, shortness of breath, pulmonary fibrosis, critical care myopathy and other debilitating impacts on their health. The unit provides rehabilitation sessions to help patients regain abilities and skills to their maximum possible potential.”