Would you rehab 'long COVID' in the posh Alps?

"If you see patients from the acute clinic coming here they are really fatigued, they are really very limited in their physical activities so this environment here with the woods and ways to go around the clinic really helps them to get on their way back to normality."

That was Doctor Marc Spielmanns, the medical director of Klinik Wald in the beautiful Swiss Alps.

It's one of several clinics and hospitals here that, as the coronavirus pandemic drags on, have started to take in patients suffering from so-called "long COVID" - the condition that some COVID patients suffer where the effects of the disease, both physical and mental, can drag long after most others recover.

These posh mountain rehab facilities have long catered to the rich and famous for other conditions. But it's now hoped that with the sunshine, fresh air, and peace and quiet, that they can help the path to recovery for long COVID in a way that regular outpatient care cannot.

And the cost is usually covered by Switzerland's private health insurance system - about $28,000 for a four-to-six week stay at Spielmanns'.

"So with the pandemic, just the shift to infectious disease happens. And this is not a big deal for us in the rehabilitation setting. We have patients coming from intensive care units directly in the rehabilitation, since acute hospitals don't manage them in with the needs the patients actually have."

There aren't many COVID patients yet. Doctor Spielmanns says only a handful of his 158 beds are booked for it, but the numbers seem to be rising. Another clinic on the Italian side of the Alps says it's cared for about a hundred.

At the Hochgebirgsklinik we met a Swiss Army officer who checked in. Long COVID, he says, is debilitating.

"The main stuff was really the head. So COVID took a little part of my lung and a big part of my brain."

"The symptoms were mainly, how do they call it? Brain fog. I was not capable to read anything, not even watching TV. I got serious problems with breathing, walking upstairs two levels... completely down."

It's the latest chapter in a long, fascinating history for the clinics - some of which date to the 1800s.

They started as tuberculosis centers for the wealthy, romanticized in the novel, "The Magic Mountain," and now have a new health problem to tackle.

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