No funding for Abbotsford post-COVID clinic past spring, patients say

Patients have been told the Fraser Valley’s only post-COVID clinic may close this spring. Fraser Health has refused to say whether the clinic will continue.

By Tyler Olsen | December 29, 2021 |5:00 am

The Fraser Valley’s only post-COVID clinic could be closing in just three months, as patients say they have been told there is no funding for the site.

The clinic, located in Abbotsford, treats those who suffer from what is frequently called “long COVID”—the well-reported tendency of the virus to leave a large number of infected people battling persistent symptoms for months afterward. People have reported a variety of combinations of a long list of symptoms, including but not limited to ongoing breathing difficulties, difficulties concentrating or thinking, pain, diarrhea, and sleep problems. Post-COVID symptoms have afflicted both those who endured severe COVID illnesses, and those who were only mildly affected.

The Abbotsford post-COVID recovery clinic is one of only four in the province and two in Fraser Health, and assists people from Burnaby to Hope. They operate in conjunction with the province’s Post-COVID-19 Interdisciplinary Clinical Care Network. Most visits occur virtually or over the phone, according to Jonah McGarva, who recently began attending the clinic and runs Long COVID Canada, a support group for those with the illness.

The Abbotsford clinic’s patients have been told by staff and doctors that the future of the clinic is uncertain, McGarva said. Fraser Health, which operates the site, would only say the clinic is “currently” operating. The health authority’s communication staff refused to tell The Current if the clinic will be closing and, if it is, what could replace it.

McGarva said patients have found the clinic extremely helpful, and his group is collecting patient testimonies in an effort to help generate support for the renewal of its funding. The clinic and its staff have been able to direct McGarva to get new tests, including a CT scan and an ultrasound. They have also provided guidance on how to handle physiotherapy and deal with the mental challenges that come with having a new illness about which relatively little is yet known.

“They’ve been able to give me referrals that my doctor hasn’t been able to give me [because] even though he’s on my side, he’s not a specialist,” McGarva said. That work is part of ongoing cross-discipline research into the illness and how best to treat patients.

“The brain people are talking to the lung people, the lung people are talking to the heart people, and so on, trying to figure out: ‘How can we find the connecting root here?’”

Even if the clinic were to be replaced by something new, McGarva suggests that rebuilding connections will take time that would be better served continuing to help patients.

“When Fraser Health can’t comment if one of their post-COVID clinics is closing in three months or not—or if there’s funding for it, or what they’re going to do if it does close—that’s incredibly troubling,” he said. “Patients that are going there … are scared because they don’t know what’s going to happen in three months.”

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Tyler Olsen

Managing Editor at Fraser Valley Current

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