By Annette Pinder
UBMD Internal Medicine has opened Western New York’s fist Long-COVID Center, and it is accepting all patients, regardless of whether or not they have insurance. “Our center welcomes everyone,” said Sanjay Sethi, MD, center co-director, professor, and chief of the Division of Pulmonary, Critical Care and Sleep Medicine at UBMD Internal Medicine and the Jacobs School. Allison Brashear, MD, MBA, vice president for health sciences at the University at Buffalo, dean of the Jacobs School and president of UBMD Physicians’ Group, notes that many Western New Yorkers continue to experience symptoms from COVID.
Center patients will undergo a comprehensive assessment and full medical history. Thereafter, each patient will be discussed by a multidisciplinary team of medical providers, occupational and physical therapists, as well as a social worker and community health worker from the Buffalo Urban League. The team will determine the unique care each patient requires, including any required tests, management plans, and future appointments.
“Some patients will be referred to medical specialists, while others will be referred to physical or occupational therapy. We will individualize the plan to whatever each individual needs. In addition, we want to pay careful attention to social determinants of health, including issues of healthcare access and community support,” said Sethi. While there are no diagnostic tests or proven treatments for long-COVID, the team will provide patients with help and support, and also determine if their symptoms might be due to an underlying condition that may have been present prior to their getting COVID. Non-medication interventions such as physical and occupational therapy to address chronic fatigue symptoms will also be provided.
An important aspect of the center is that providers will be able to share what they learn with other Western New York health providers. The center is also part of an ongoing joint effort by UBMD and UB that has been investigating, managing, and conducting long-COVID research since the start of the pandemic. To support this, UB and UBMD launched a community-based long COVID registry questionnaire to connect patients with information about opportunities to participate in research. So far, more than 800 people have participated. While not required, center directors strongly encourage patients to participate in the registry. For example, Thomas Guttuso, MD, a physician with UBMD Neurology and a professor of neurology in the Jacobs School, who conducted a long Covid clinical trial on low-dose lithium, used the registry to enroll many participants who benefited from the trial.
The center’s ability to serve all patients, whether they have insurance or not, was made possible by funding from the Mother Cabrini Health Foundation, whose mission is to improve the health and well-being of the most vulnerable New Yorkers. A partnership between the Center and the Buffalo Urban League is helping reach Buffalo’s underserved communities, which have been hard hit by COVID-19 and long-COVID.
In addition to providing treatment regardless of an individual’s ability to pay, parking is free for all patients. To make an appointment at the center, call Trudy Stern, NP at 716-323-0674, or visit https://www.ubmd.com/practice-locations/long-covid-recovery-center.html. For more about the registry, visit https://medicine.buffalo.edu/long-covid.html.