Interview with Prof. Dr. Michael Jöbges, Medical Director Kliniken Schmieder Konstanz, on the effect of COVID-19 on patients and the rehabilitation sector.
To what extent has the corona pandemic affected rehabilitation in Germany?
It has severely affected neurological rehabilitation. Mainly because patients withdrew from acute treatment due to COVID-19, which leads to long-term damages and will cost our society dearly. On the other hand, it has forced hospitals to react to the concerns of patients and payers by introducing new and much higher hygiene and safety standards. At Kliniken Schmieder, we manage the risks during the pandemic with an internally developed system to make sure that our patients rehabilitation is safe.
How can rehabilitation clinics contribute to the treatment of patients suffering from Long-COVID?
From a neurologist's point of view, there is probably not just the one "Post-COVID syndrome". There are those people who have survived severe COVID infection thanks to intensive medical interventions. For this group of patients we now know that structures in the area of the central as well as the peripheral nervous system are damaged.
A completely other group of patients with "post-COVID syndromes" was only slightly affected by the infection and for the most part did not even have to be treated as inpatients. Here, fatigue is often the main problem of concern.
At present, we are analysing the similarities and differences between these two forms of subjective fatigue and measurable fatigue (fatigability) in both the motor as well as in the cognitive domain. In the process the stresses and strains suffered as well as psychodynamic reactions are taken into account as well. In approach allows us to describe the clinical picture as accurately as possible and based on the findings derive the individual rehabilitation programme.
How great will the burden of disease be due to the late effects?
I want to answer this question in the light of the latest publication of the German Society for Neurology. 4 out of 5 affected patients, who were hospitalised, suffer from neurological symptoms and in Switzerland, one third of those who were SARS-CoV-2 infected but not hospitalised were found to have detectable symptoms. If these figures are only rudimentarily confirmed, the neurological rehabilitation sector is facing a wave of new challenges.