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Marietta Memorial offers treatments for COVID-19

Photo provided Dr. Dan Breece, vice president of physician services and chief medical officer for Memorial Health System, shows vials of the COVID 19 vaccine. The Memorial Health System is registering people for drive-through vaccination clinics to be offered in the near future.

Memorial Health System is continuing to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic, offering a number of treatments as well as having efforts underway to get people vaccinated.

Like other healthcare facilities across the country, the Memorial Health System (MHS) which operates Marietta Memorial Hospital and the Belpre Medical Campus in Ohio and Sistersville General Hospital in West Virginia, are seeing a number of patients who have tested positive for the COVID-19 virus.

“From the COVID standpoint, we are seeing a little bit of an uptick with inpatients in our hospital (Marietta Memorial Hospital),” said Dr. Dan Breece, vice president of physician services and chief medical officer for Memorial Health System. “We have had the highest instances of a community healthcare system in the state of Ohio, if not regionally. Our highest census was 75 which was far higher than most hospitals around us.”

This past week, their census is now around 45 COVID positive patients or patients presumed to have COVID, Breece said.

“We have continued to keep our doors open for the most part to all of those who needed it,” he said. “Many hospitals around us have had to ask us to accept patients because they were unable to take care of them due to a staffing shortage or due to capacity alone. We have tried to take care of every single patient out there that we have been asked to take care of. We still do that today.”

For months, the MHS has been able to offer just about every single therapy most hospitals can offer in the treatment of COVID-19, with the exception of a few that were reserved for large academic care centers.

In November, the MHS began offering the two leading monoclonal antibody therapies, Bamlanivimab (Bam) and Regeneron which are done through an I.V. drip, in the treatment of COVID-19 at their infusion center at the Belpre Medical Campus. These are in addition to the vaccines that have begun to be administered nationwide.

MHS has done those treatments for around 100 patients so far in Belpre. Bam has been used since November.

On Tuesdays and Thursdays, MHS allows the ER or urgent care or any primary care doctor who has the patient who is COVID positive and meets the criteria for these treatments to be referred to that clinic and receive that infusion.

They have also been able to offer Convalescent plasma which uses blood from people who have recovered from an illness; Remdesivir, an antiviral treatment; Decadron therapy and other therapies. These have been used with inpatients for months.

“We feel we can offer local patients just about anything they can receive anywhere else, for the most part,” Breece said. “We are happy to say we can serve all of those patients in the Mid-Ohio Valley and really give them the best chance for recovery. We will take as many patients as we can that meet the criteria.”

They have done as few as four a day and as many as 15-16 in a day.

“We truly believe it helps the recovery time for these patients and hopefully keeps them out of the hospital and reduces the deaths from COVID,” Breece said. “We are collecting our own data but national data has shown that it seems to be working positively for COVID patients.”

COVID testing is continuing at the urgent care facility, the Physician Care Express near Wal-Mart, on Pike Street. The drive-thru testing is available six days a week, Monday to Saturday, with appointments available on Sundays if patients meet the required criteria.

Breece said they have been excited about the vaccine rollout in recent weeks. They have been receiving shipments of the Moderna vaccine and they have begun receiving the Pfizer vaccine.

Work has been underway to vaccinate frontline healthcare workers and first responders. Over the past week, MHS was also able to administer vaccines to over 200 people, 80-years-old and older., during drive-through clinics.

Scheduling is underway for clinics being planned in the future.

People are being advised to call 844-887-4148 to do the pre-registration work, said Jennifer Offenberger, associate vice president, service excellence for Memorial Health System.

The process will get their information together so they will be able to go right through the clinic and get vaccinated when the time comes. Once a clinic is set up for their age group, they will be contacted to make the appointment with the time and location of the drive-through clinic.

“You have to have an appointment,” Offenberger said.. “We have a drive-through format where people can drive up and get their shot, but they do have to have an appointment.”

Even if it is not their time, people can still be registered and have that work done.

Offenberger said Memorial will continually put updates on social media about more clinics as they become available. As of Thursday, MHS has over 2,600 people signed up.

COVID infections are occurring “across the board” with a variety of people of various ages being tested positive.

“The 80 and above age group is where you see the highest number of deaths,” Breece said.

Breece knows many people are tired of talking about COVID with many people eager to return to the way their lives were before the pandemic. He said there are a lot of mixed messages out there where infections impact some more than others as some people have died as a result and others only had mild cases.

“What I worry about with the public is they don’t see what I see every day,” Breece said. “When I come to work and when I review numbers, it is not normal to have 45 people and as high as 75 people in the hospital with the same diagnosis.

“It is abnormal to have that many patients like that in the hospital. It is also abnormal to have an extra area in the hospital set aside with a separate ICU capability for these COVID patients because they are on ventilators and there are many who go on ventilators don’t make it off. That is part of the story the public doesn’t always hear.”

He regularly sees people doing what they need to do following the guidelines, wearing a mask and keeping their distance while others do what they want.

“Everyday I come to work and it is sad to see what COVID can do to people,” Breece said.

Memorial Health System took over Sistersville General Hospital in October, giving them a footprint in both states which means during the pandemic they have had to keep up with both states’ guidelines. Breece also is the president of Sistersville General Hospital.

In Sistersville, they have been able to vaccinate their workforce and are working to be able to distribute vaccine to Tyler and the surrounding counties as well, working closely with their health departments up there. In many cases, medical personnel are available to the health department to be able to do vaccination work through local clinics, Breece said.

Memorial has provided personnel to Sistersville to make sure the ER is fully staffed. If there are patients that have to be admitted to the hospital and the level of care required exceeds what can be offered in Sistersville, the patients are transferred to Marietta Memorial Hospital, Breece said.

“We work with them directly to transfer the patient directly to us as quickly as possible,” he said. “As soon as we can discharge them, all of their care will be right back there in the Tyler County region.”

When it comes to COVID, people still need to be vigilant, Breece said.

Everyone is in the vaccination period and while some people are vaccinated, others are not.

“We need to make sure everyone in the community continues to adhere to the guidelines, continue to social distance and wear masks,” he said. “If that is what we need to do as we continue to vaccinate people and respect each other with that.”

In the meantime, people are still having heart attacks, strokes and other ailments that need to be treated as well as other lab testing and other things that need to be taken care of. Breece said they have seen people put things off that they need to do routinely for their own maintenance care. They are offering telehealth services so people can still have access to care.

“We take the utmost pride in everything we do to deliver the highest quality healthcare and we challenge ourselves to be the best in what we do,” he said. “We have a very safe, clean environment at all of our locations and hold ourselves accountable to have that each and every single day to keep our patients and staff safe.

“In my mind there is no reason a patient can’t receive the same level of or have more options than they did pre-COVID. We have expanded so much to make sure each and every patient is served.

Contact Brett Dunlap at bdunlap@newsandsentinel.com

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