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Thumb-area hospital using COVID therapy to keep new admissions down

Published: Apr. 17, 2021 at 10:10 PM EDT
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BAD AXE, Mich. (WJRT) (4/17/2021)--The situation remains critical in the Thumb, one of the state’s epicenters for new coronavirus cases.

Alternative therapies, meanwhile, were being deployed to curb hospital admissions. A Thumb-area hospital updated ABC12 regarding the situation on the ground during a Saturday Zoom call.

“The situation over the past week has actually been pretty stable.”

That was McLaren Thumb Region’s Dr. Norm Chapin, grappling with the same surge in case counts which have recently pushed the patient census in Michigan’s hospitals to dangerous levels not seen in months. The situation here, Chapin said, had seemingly stabilized for the time being, giving providers a chance to catch their breath.

“The two weeks prior to that, we saw a pretty dramatic uptick,” he related.

“We can stabilize patients all day and be fine with that. We can manage other emergencies that come through the door. However, if patients need a high level of care, we need to get them transferred to the right place, and if our neighboring hospitals in Saginaw, Flint, Bay City, Detroit, are all at capacity, that really limits what we can do.”

Dr. Mark Hamed serves as the Medical Director of eight Michigan counties, three of which are in the Thumb. He told ABC12′s Michael Nafso Friday attempts to transfer to larger hospitals with an ICU are frequently met with messages of ‘OCCUPIED’ or ‘NOT ACCEPTING PATIENTS’

“That really limits what we can do,” Hamed admitted.

New cases were still soaring across Huron, Tuscola, and Sanilac counties as of this week. The days ahead will prove critical, Hamed said, though, unlike the last wave, he explained they now have a secret weapon in their arsenal.

“Ever since they’ve had the medical antibody therapy, the vaccines, we’re seeing this light at the end of the tunnel, so we’re seeing our staff really reenergized and re-motivated,” Hamed related.

Governor Gretchen Whitmer announced Wednesday the state would expand its use of so-called mono-clonal antibodies or MABs, molecules created in a lab, capable of mimicking the body’s immune response.

“We have a process in place to provide that,” Chapin said.

The antibodies are typically used in patients not yet sick enough to require a hospital bed. Chapin said McLaren used them to treat positive cases in curbing new admissions.

“We are looking for ways that we can continue to educate the public and educate physicians in the community about the availability of the option,” he explained.

The state’s vaccination strategy – meanwhile -- still critical in stemming the tide of new infections.

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