UPTOWN — Weiss Memorial Hospital is participating in a nationwide study of a new coronavirus treatment — and already seeing promising results.
A Weiss Hospital patient suffering from coronavirus was successfully treated using convalescent plasma, hospital officials announced Monday.
The “younger” patient with severe COVID-19 symptoms was given convalescent plasma, which is an infusion of blood plasma from a recovered coronavirus patient that includes antibodies for the illness. Within 24 hours of receiving the treatment, the patient’s oxygen assistance was lessened, and within three days they were discharged, said Dr. Suzanne Pham, Weiss’ associate medical director.
The early success of convalescent plasma treatment at Weiss, 4646 N. Marine Dr., and other hospitals could be a breakthrough in the fight against COVID-19, though more studies of the procedure are still needed to determine its broader success, officials said.
“It was an amazing turnaround,” Pham said. “[Convalescent plasma] is a treatment that has been used with other viral illnesses. I’m hopeful that once again it will prove beneficial.”
The convalescent plasma treatment is offered at Weiss thanks to its involvement in the federal COVID-19 expanded access program. Weiss was one of 2,000 medical centers included in the experimental trial of the plasma treatment, which is administered by the Mayo Clinic.
Convalescent plasma has been effective in treating previous diseases including SARS, H1N1 and even the Spanish Flu. The Food and Drug Administration launched nationwide clinical trials of the treatment for coronavirus on April 3.
Weiss has been involved in the trials since early April and it has used the plasma treatment on four patients. It’s too early for a final report on all patients, but progress is generally good, Pham said.
“We’re cautiously optimistic,” she said.
Involvement in the plasma studies is a big deal for Weiss, a community hospital that serves a large population of low-income patients. Like other community hospitals, Weiss has had to serve coronavirus patients while enduring significant financial hardship.
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The hospital is owed nearly $7 million from the state for the treatment of Medicaid and other patients, and Weiss only receives about 25 percent of the reimbursement rates it seeks from government entities, according to the hospital.
Funding for the plasma trials comes from a federal agency, and the Red Cross is donating the plasma that contains the coronavirus antibodies, Pham said. Weiss Hospital also was one of the first medical centers to receive GE’s new ventilators, which were donated to the hospital from the federal government.
“Our hospital has continued to provide care to the best of our ability, but our resources are limited,” Pham said. “We’re proud… to provide as many therapeutic options as possible, especially in a community setting.”
The hospital has strained to expand its capacity to help COVID-19 patients, including doubling its intensive care unit and housing coronavirus patients on seven of the hospital’s eight floors.
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