Long Covid clinics refusing patients due to funding issues
The two largest Long Covid outpatient clinics in Amsterdam and Rotterdam have closed their doors to new patients. The reimbursements for the care they provide are too low, and they simply can’t afford to take on any more patients, the Volksrkant reports.
Long Covid patients have long-term, complicated, and serious complaints. Little is known about the disease, and there is no known effective treatment. So specialists at the Long Covid clinics do a lot of research and help the patients as best they can.
The outpatient clinic at the Erasmus MC in Rotterdam recently decided to stop taking on new patients. Only one of the four outpatient clinics in Amsterdam is left. Radboud UMC closed the outpatient clinic last summer and now offers Long Covid patients personal guidance with support from the hospital.
But remote guidance is not enough for this large group of people with persistent and severe problems, medical advisor Alfons Olde Loohuis of C-support said to the newspaper. C-support offers over 22,000 patients with long-term coronavirus complaints support.
Patients with Long Covid have a range of complaints that require a multidisciplinary view, said professor of internal medicine Michele van Vugt, who specializes in infectious diseases at Amsterdam UMC. “A teaching hospital is the place for such a complex disease. It doesn’t feel right that there aren’t enough resources for that.”
Health insurers’ standard reimbursement for a visit to the outpatient clinic is nowhere near enough, doctors told the newspaper. Long Covid patients need a lot more than the regular 10-minute consultation. “People have tried everything and have a great need for explanation. We look at their complaints with a team of specialists, try to find out where they come from, and possibly set up scientific research.”
“If we want more money, the health insurers will rightly ask what extras we offer. But if we really want to help these patients, we have to look for a treatment,” explained pulmonologist Leon van der Toorn of Erasmus MC. “We can only find one if we do structural research. We need money for that, and we need to get a good picture of the patients at the outpatient clinics.”
Olde Loonhuis said that C-Support, the Ministry of Public Health, and the umbrella organization for academic hospitals (NFU) are looking for a solution. There are plans to set up an expertise center - a collaboration between peripheral and academic hospitals. But doctors worry that this will take too long.