MetroHealth Opens Post-COVID Clinic to Care for Patients with Lingering Symptoms
Cleveland - Migraines, memory loss, extreme fatigue, shortness of breath, anxiety and depression, insomnia, night terrors and blood clots. The list is long and complicated of the various ways in which COVID can manifest itself in the human body – weeks and sometimes months into recovery.
"There's still so much to learn about this virus," says Elisheva Weinberger, DO, a rheumatologist who has been serving in MetroHealth's new Post-COVID Clinic since it opened in December. The clinic connects patients who are suffering with lingering symptoms of COVID to the appropriate specialist who can determine the best after-care treatment to minimize symptoms through therapy or medication.
Dr. Weinberger says she's never seen anything like COVID in her years of practicing medicine. "A lot of these patients are really suffering and have never experienced something like this before – the symptoms can be really debilitating," she says. "We see our role as trying to help these patients navigate this really difficult time."
Currently, appointments through the Post-COVID Clinic are virtual – by phone and video. According to Lisa Ramage, Center Director, Specialty Care, patients can contact (or be referred to) the Post-COVID Clinic at 216-957-3959 if they continue to have symptoms disrupting daily life activities four weeks after testing positive. Those experiencing lingering symptoms less than four weeks after a positive COVID diagnosis should contact their primary care provider if they feel they need medical help.
Coordination between the subspecialties is ongoing so Post-COVID Clinic staff can get appointments for patients to the most appropriate provider in a timely manner. According to Ramage, many of the patients are having serious breathing issues. "One patient, a MetroHealth employee who had returned to work following her illness, had such difficulty breathing she had to take frequent breaks on the way to her office to catch her breath," explains Ramage. "Getting these patients triaged by the pulmonology team in a timely manner is important work of the Post-COVID Clinic."
Dr. Weinberger concurs saying there is treatment available for these patients. "It may be medication to ease symptoms or simply getting patients who are dealing with anxiety and depression an appointment with a behavioral health provider in a timely manner."
According to the CDC, "many organs besides the lungs are affected by COVID-19 and there are many ways the infection can affect someone's health."
The CDC cites the following as the most common long-term symptoms being reported:
- Shortness of breath
- Joint pain
- Chest pain
Other reported long-term symptoms include:
- Difficulty with thinking and concentration (sometimes referred to as "brain fog")
- Muscle pain
- Intermittent fever
- Fast-beating or pounding heart (also known as heart palpitations)
The CDC cites the following more serious long-term complications being reported, though less common, affecting several organ systems including:
- Cardiovascular: inflammation of the heart muscle
- Respiratory: lung function abnormalities
- Renal: acute kidney injury
- Dermatologic: rash, hair loss
- Neurological: smell and taste problems, sleep issues, difficulty with concentration, memory problems
- Psychiatric: depression, anxiety, changes in mood
MetroHealth's Post-COVID Clinic is currently staffed by a rheumatologist, a rheumatology nurse practitioner, a family medicine physician, and an internal medicine physician.
Ramage anticipates the need for the Post-COVID Clinic will grow based on published research and studies. One study out of Wuhan, China, found three out of four patients who had been hospitalized were reporting one or more symptoms six months after getting sick. Fatigue or muscle weakness and sleep issues were among the most frequent reported symptoms. Anxiety and depression were reported by 23% of patients in the study. You can find the study, which was published in The Lancent, here.
To help patients manage anxiety and depression related to COVID, MetroHealth established a special COPE Line – 440-592-(6843) in December. The COPE Line is available Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. at 216-957-3090. Individuals with or without an existing behavioral health provider will be screened to see if they are eligible for a fast-turnaround appointment with a psychologist, counselor or social worker.
The MetroHealth System is redefining health care by going beyond medical treatment to improve the foundations of community health and well-being: affordable housing, a cleaner environment, economic opportunity and access to fresh food, convenient transportation, legal help and other services. The system strives to become as good at preventing disease as it is at treating it.
The system’s more than 600 doctors, 1,700 nurses and 7,800 employees go to work each day with a mission of service, to their patients and to the community. As Cuyahoga County’s safety-net health system, MetroHealth plays an essential role in the region, caring for anyone and everyone, regardless of an ability to pay.
Founded in 1837, MetroHealth operates four hospitals, four emergency departments and more than 20 health centers and 40 additional sites throughout Cuyahoga County. The system serves more than 300,000 patients, two-thirds of whom are uninsured or covered by Medicare or Medicaid.
MetroHealth is home to Cuyahoga County’s most experienced Level I Adult Trauma Center, verified since 1992, and Ohio’s only adult and pediatric trauma and burn center.
As an academic medical center, MetroHealth is committed to research and to teaching and training tomorrow’s caregivers. Each active staff physician holds a faculty appointment at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine. Its main campus hospital houses the Cleveland Metropolitan School District’s Lincoln-West School of Science & Health, the only high school in America located inside a hospital.
Knowing that good health is about much more than good medical care, MetroHealth has launched the Institute for H.O.P.E.™ (Health, Opportunity, Partnership, Empowerment), which uses a coordinated, collaborative and strategic approach to help patients with non-medical needs such as healthy food, stable housing and job training.
The MetroHealth Glick Center, a new 11-floor hospital, is under construction on the system’s main campus in Cleveland and is scheduled to welcome its first patients in October 2022. The billion-dollar project is the cornerstone of a wider neighborhood revitalization effort led by the system and its partners in the community.
For more information, visit metrohealth.org.