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A rare clinic is treating a rare effect left from the pandemic.

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Dr. Neeja Bakshi, co-founder and medical director of Park Integrative Health, said her clinic has been looking into the new condition and it seems it is affecting about 10 per cent of those who contracted COVID-19.

There have been more than 536,000 confirmed cases reported in Alberta since the COVID-19 pandemic began and a new condition called long COVID is likely affecting thousands of Albertans.

“The conservative estimate from Dr. Theresa Tam a couple of months ago was 10 per cent and I’d say that’s probably right. A month ago, we passed the four-million mark for Canadians that had COVID and 10 per cent is 400,000, so it is a significant amount, ”she said. “As we learn more about what long COVID is, I think patients will be able to reflect back and realize that it is how they feel and they have those symptoms.”

Long COVID has a variety of symptoms, according to Bakshi, adding they are still studying the effects.

“Long COVID is technically defined as unexplained or persistent systems two or more months post-acute COVID infection. What we’re seeing predominantly is a lot of cogitative dysfunction, brain fog, memory loss, shortness of breath and fatigue. We’re seeing a few other symptoms like increased heart rate and low endurance, but by and large, people are complaining about fatigue or brain fog, “Bakshi said.

While there are a few long COVID clinics in Edmonton, such as at the Kaye Edmonton Clinic or the Edmonton North PCN, Park Integrative Health’s clinic is the lone one currently available within Strathcona County.

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Dr.  Neeja Bakshi, co-founder and medical director of Park Integrative Health, launched a long COVID clinic locally in January.  Photo via Twitter / @ NeejaB
Dr. Neeja Bakshi, co-founder and medical director of Park Integrative Health, launched a long COVID clinic locally in January. Photo via Twitter / @ NeejaB

The local clinic originally opened in 2017 and the long COVID program started in January 2022. The medical director noted they have seen a steady stream of those suffering.

“We are averaging anywhere from five to 10 new consults every few days that are coming in. Currently, I’m booking in June, but because we know there’s such a need, we’re starting to open up extra days to get patients right now, ”Bakshi said. “We’re doing it once a week right now to accommodate what we can, but we’re going to have to increase it to two to three times a week.”

Bakshi said long COVID in some patients has left them so sick they are on long-term disability. The doctor – who throughout the pandemic has worked on the internal medicine ward at the Royal Alexandra Hospital – said there is a range of issues that are being connected with long COVID and they are collecting data and trying to help patients with treatments.

“Hair loss is fairly common after acute stress or illness, but what we’re seeing with hair loss is with long COVID is that it does improve. It takes some time but it does come back. We’re starting to understand a bit about the hormonal effects of long COVID and some are seeing secondary infertility, we’re seeing some issues with women’s reproductive health and we haven’t seen many issues with men’s reproductive health, but I image it is out there, ”she explained.

Bakshi said another important aspect of this work is confirming for patients that they do in fact have issues even though they are no longer testing positive.

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“The biggest thing is validation. There are a lot of people who feel they have not been heard and I have patients who had COVID in 2020 and have been suffering for two years now and they feel frustrated and not heard by their physician, the community or their family. The first step is always validating that they do have long COVID, ”she said. “One of the hardest things as a provider is that I can’t say I have a cure yet, but my hope is that through learning what patients have and looking at their symptoms, we can at least help them get a better quality of life as the medical community catches up with research. ”

On Twitter, she detailed that she has learned a lot in only three months.

“I’ve had the privilege to meet so many people with such powerful, sad, and gut-wrenching stories,” she wrote. “Not being able to work due to brain fog and cognitive delays. Not being able to complete the six minute respiratory walk test due to fatigue, high heart rates, and chest tightness. Feeling distracted with the most basic of tasks. Distorted senses of smell, or smelling cigarette smoke everywhere. Migraines. Anxiety. Depression. Digestive problems with slow motility and nausea. These were healthy individuals who got COVID, and some are feeling the effects over 18 months later, who tell me their stories with such grace, humility and desperation for the life they once lived. ”

She even pushed through with the long COVID clinics when first launching the program in January, even though she had contracted the virus herself at that time, and quickly pivoted to virtual video consultations.

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“Long COVID is not going anywhere. Validating experiences, supporting research, and continuing to highlight patient stories is critical right now. The sheer volume of population that will be affected by this is incredible, and highlights the need for physicians, employers, and insurers to take this seriously, ”she wrote.

“Prevention is ultimately key. We know this. But until prevention is universally accepted and valued by our leaders, have patience, grace, and empathy for those around you. We never know the depth of what your fellow human is dealing with. ”

Bakshi is working with other medical professionals to collaborate on the issue and underlined that this is not a formal research study clinic.

“I am working with the various clinics in Edmonton run by AHS and are collaborating and trying to come up with common pathways of treatment. I hope the province will invest in a broader approach because right now it is very piece-meal and for this research we need to work together, ”she explained.

Bakshi expects to see more people realizing they have long COVID symptoms and search for answers over the next few months.

“I hope we can do more education and in Strathcona County, I hope to work with the Primary Care Network to provide some education sessions for family physicians in the area so they can pick up and recognize that education is very, very important as we move forward, ”Bakshi said.

You can find out more about the long COVID treatments at the clinic by visiting To access the program, you must be referred by a family doctor.

– With files from Lindsay Morey

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