Juneau’s hospital opens antibody therapy clinic to get ahead of COVID hospitalizations

Bartlett Regional Hospital 2018 12 01
Bartlett Regional Hospital, pictured here on Dec. 1, 2018. (Photo by Jeremy Hsieh/KTOO)

Juneau’s Bartlett Regional Hospital opened a clinic to treat COVID-19 patients this week using monoclonal antibody therapy. It’s a method used to reduce symptoms in patients with early-stage COVID infections. The idea is that antibodies support the immune system as it defends against the virus.

“It reduces the chance of people having to be hospitalized and experiencing severe COVID illness,” said chief nursing officer Kim McDowell.

She said the treatment reduces admissions to the hospital, and right now that’s important.

“The last couple of weeks, we did see quite a few, [an] increase of COVID-19 patients. We were seeing them quite frequently through our emergency department, many being admitted,” she said. “And unfortunately, we did see some deaths from that.”

Three people died with COVID-19 at Bartlett in August.

McDowell says admissions have begun to level out at the hospital, but she’s keeping an eye on the rising case counts in the community.

Bartlett has offered the treatment since the first wave of the pandemic, but McDowell says the dedicated clinic will reduce pressure on its limited nursing staff. It’s also intended to reduce pressure on the statewide healthcare system. If a COVID-19 patient at Bartlett requires intubation, they have to be medevaced elsewhere.

“By doing our part with decreasing hospitalizations here, we will also help our partners in Seattle and in Anchorage. If we can prevent severe illness, that would prevent somebody being medevaced to an already full hospital,” McDowell said.

The treatment is pretty simple; it’s a one-time IV that stays in the arm for about 20 minutes. McDowell says patients then stay at the hospital for an hour to make sure they don’t have an allergic reaction.

If you’ve recently tested positive for COVID-19, the best way to learn more about antibody treatment is through a primary care provider. If you don’t have one, call 907-796-8900 to reach Bartlett staff for information and scheduling.

Editor’s note: The headline of this story has been updated to reflect Bartlett Regional Hospital has opened a clinic.

Claire Stremple

Alaska News Reporter, KTOO

I believe every Alaskan has a right to timely information about their health and health systems, and their natural environment and its management. My goal is to report thoughtful stories that inform, inspire and quench the curiosity of listeners across the state.

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