By John R. Schirmer
Covid-19 patients who meet certain requirements have a new treatment option at Howard Memorial Hospital – monoclonal antibodies therapy.
CEO Debra Wright said the facility began offering the service last week.
“It happened because of a newspaper article,” Wright said. A coronavirus patient read a story in the News-Leader about a hospital board meeting at which Wright discussed monoclonal antibodies.
“He asked about this therapy” the day he read about it, Jan. 27, according to Wright.
The hospital distributed packets to healthcare providers last week. The patient was approved and received the therapy.
“He felt so much better today,” Wright said Friday afternoon. “We haven’t had an effective treatment until this.”
Howard Memorial received 24 doses last week after requesting 30 from the state.
“I hope people are able to receive it,” Wright said. “Don’t wait too long. I worry that we don’t have the staff on Saturday and Sunday” if several patients ask for treatment on the weekends.
“We plan to administer it Monday through Friday, but it’s a tricky window,” Wright said.
The hospital will order additional doses every two weeks, including today (Feb. 3).
The drug “has a good shelf life. The doses we have are good until September,” Wright said.
“We can administer up to six doses per day,” according to Wright. “We can do two patients at a time.”
The service is offered at 8:30 a.m., 11 a.m. and 3:30 p.m.
The process begins with a positive test for Covid-19. Patients who meet the program guidelines are referred by doctors and nurse practitioners to the hospital, where centralized scheduling sets up a time.
“Ideally, the patient will be at the hospital within 24 hours of seeing the provider,” Wright said. “The sooner, the better. You don’t need to wait. If you’re positive and think you’re a candidate, talk to your doctor and get an order placed.”
Once at Howard Memorial, the patient will complete preliminary paperwork. The treatment is administered through an IV and takes about one hour, Wright said.
Afterward, the patient stays for another hour to be monitored for side effects. Anyone with a severe reaction will be taken to the emergency room, according to Wright.
Patients are treated in the new negative pressure room on the east wing of the hospital, Wright said. Covid-19 patients are housed in the east wing, away from other patients.
“The key factor is the negative pressure room. It’s just inside the door on the east wing and can be switched to negative pressure if needed. Air is drawn out of the room through a HEPA filter and goes outside.”
One of the fears of Covid is that “we don’t know how long droplets that fall onto a surface can survive. Everything is disinfected after a patient is discharged,” Wright said.
“We don’t want to put the staff” or other patients at risk, according to Wright. That’s why the negative pressure room is the “key factor” that Wright mentioned.