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UHS Chenango Memorial starts new outpatient treatment for COVID patients

March 02, 2021

Even as they work with local and regional partners to administer doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, caregivers at UHS Chenango Memorial Hospital continue to care for acutely ill patients battling the virus.

Now, thanks to a novel outpatient infusion therapy, they hope to keep those at highest risk of complications from the virus from ever ending up in a hospital bed.

“Over the last year, we’ve witnessed the negative outcomes patients battling this virus can have, particularly those with pre-existing conditions that place them at higher risk,” explained Chris Kisacky.

Kisacky, who oversees the outpatient and physician practice side of UHS Chenango Memorial’s healthcare services as the hospital’s Vice President of Service Delivery and Development, admitted it’s been frustrating for her team.

“Until now, all we’ve been equipped to do in an outpatient setting is make sure they can continue to manage their chronic conditions and encourage them to take every precaution against exposure to COVID-19,” she said. “Those that have needed acute care as a result of COVID have been in excellent hands in our Emergency Room, Medical Surgical and ICU units. But we want to do everything we can to keep them from needing that level of care.”

Last week, hospital staff introduced a new type of treatment designed to do just that. This type of outpatient treatment for COVID-19 patients has seen success elsewhere in the UHS System and around the country. The treatment, known as monoclonal antibody therapy, involves infusion of a drug called Bamlanivimab. It received emergency use authorization from the Food & Drug Administration for use with COVID-19 positive patients in November.

“It allows people to get better faster, and decrease the need for hospitalizations,” explained Dr. Kurt Harding, Primary Care Medical Director at UHS Chenango Memorial. The physician leader was instrumental in launching the new treatment.

While the hospital has the capacity to perform 10-15 infusion treatments a week at present, not all COVID-positive patients are candidates to receive monoclonal antibody therapy.

According to Harding, only newly diagnosed COVID positive patients with qualifying conditions such as chronic kidney disease, immunosuppressive diseases, cardiovascular disease, COPD and asthma are candidates for the treatment.

“Even though the data from the clinical trials looks promising and appears to be effective, this is still a novel treatment being used under emergency approval,” he explained. “The decision to pursue this treatment, as always, is between you and your provider.”

According to Harding, having monoclonal antibody therapy available at Chenango Memorial will make it easier for COVID positive patients who live in Chenango County to receive the potentially life-saving treatment.

“Those patients will no longer need to travel out of the area to get this treatment,” said Harding.

Infusions are nothing new at the Norwich hospital, which routinely administers oncology and other drugs in its facility in this fashion. It is, however, the first time they’ve been able to offer any type of treatment for COVID-positive patients on an outpatient basis.

According to Kisacky, a task team was formed to ensure the infusions could be done safely and effectively for all involved.

“We’ll be administering these infusions in a designated negative-pressure space, with strict cleaning, personal protective equipment and access protocols,” she said. “This allows us to ensure that these patients receive this potentially life-saving treatment while protecting both their well-being and the health and safety of staff and other patients.”

Kisacky credited Chenango Memorial’s Pharmacy, Ambulatory Surgery, Environmental Services and Facilities teams, as well as Harding’s Primary Care team for their role in bringing this new clinical offering to life.

“This was a true collaboration of many different areas of our hospital, and an excellent example of the teamwork that lives within our organization every day, and that we’ve witnessed so often during this pandemic,” she said. “Everyone is focused on doing everything we can for those battling this virus.”

For more information on COVID-19, visit www.nyuhs.org.

UHS Chenango Memorial Hospital is a member of United Health Services, a locally owned not-for-profit 916-bed hospital and health care system serving the Greater Binghamton region from more than 40 locations around New York’s Southern Tier.