Over the last few weeks, Russell County Hospital has provided 12-20 monoclonal antibody treatments per day to COVID patients, locally and those coming as far as Tennessee.
Known to many as “the infusion” that is provided to high-risk individuals positive for COVID-19, the treatment has provided success for a lot of people in the community and surrounding areas to avoid severe cases of COVID infection.
But now with what is reported as a nationwide shortage of the treatment, RCH CEO Patrick Branco said the hospital still plans to provide as many treatments as possible for COVID patients.
Branco said he was notified last Monday that “something had changed” within the state and when he checked with the pharmacy where the hospital typically orders the monoclonal antibody treatment, the pharmacy told him that it didn’t look like they would be able to get it from their normal provider.
Branco said he was told the Governor was shifting the supply and distribution to the state health department.
Branco said he was surprised by the news, and he reached out to the Kentucky Hospital Association. Branco said they were also surprised by the news.
“We don’t know a whole lot about how this will change, but we do know that none of the hospitals in the state are going to be able to order from the primary source anymore and it’s going to go through a state distribution plan,” Branco said.
For a hospital that utilizes these treatments frequently for people who have COVID and are deemed high-risk, this has the potential to create challenges.
“I expressed my frustration about that because I think we’ve been doing a good job, providing about 12-20 treatments per day seven days a week,” Branco said. “People are coming from far and wide to come here because they know we have it, we give it, and we take care of those patients who come here to get it. We haven’t turned people away. We had one patient come up from Tennessee because their doctor ordered the treatment and they said they knew we would be able to take care of them.”
The hospital has a supply of the treatments that should last several days, Branco said, and the hospital is able to distribute them.
“I have been reassured by the KHA that in their discussions with the state commissioner of health, we should be able to get the treatment medication in the future,” Branco said. “I’m sure the change in process will slow it down some, but I hope it isn’t too long and our existing supply will last long enough so there is no disruption. That said, it can change in a moment’s notice.”
Branco said he was frustrated earlier this year with COVID vaccine supply and distribution, particularly when it came to rural hospitals like Russell County Hospital. He said he hopes a similar situation doesn’t occur again with the antibody treatment.
“With the vaccine, they were limiting distribution to more of the urban centers,” Branco said. “Some of us rural facilities who had been on a pretty fast pace of getting the vaccines out were put on hold. That disrupted what we were doing where we were doing a pretty good job of getting people vaccinated. Then we got turned off for a month. That disrupted things. I’m hopeful that we don’t encounter a similar kind of disruption or rationing this time.
I want everyone to know and understand it’s my job to fight for our community, our county, and the patients we serve. I don’t give up easily, so if they don’t want us to be a major distribution center, I’ll fight to be a minor distribution center. I’ll keep finding a way and if I have to knock on the Governor’s door and ask for special attention, I’m not above that either. I would be happy to plead our case. Thank heavens we’ve had enough supply to take care of the people we serve here and I want that to continue.”