The Guam Regional Medical City (GRMC) is doling out its doses of an antibody COVID treatment meant to help those who’ve tested positive fight off the disease themselves.
PNC took an exclusive tour of the BLU-MED tent set up outside the hospital and spoke with the medical staff ensuring it runs smoothly.
Another two patients were expected to get the medicine today after a handful last week before Thanksgiving. And medical staff say so far, so good.
Greg Woodard, nurse practitioner, said: “Maybe some fatigue, nausea about 3% in the studies…anytime you stick an IV in somebody, there’s always a chance for an infusion reaction, but fortunately we haven’t seen that.”
Woodard says the whole point of the medicine is to prevent more hospitalizations. It’s meant for those with mild to moderate symptoms caught between 10 days of testing positive who have underlying health issues. The drug boosts their ability to fight off the disease themselves.
“So, you’ve heard about the spikes on the virus…this drug is key to those spikes. Basically, you’re injecting a protein that binds to those spikes and makes them unable to lock into your healthy cells. Kind of like putting a bubble around the virus so it never enters your healthy cells,” Woodard said.
It’s called Bamlanivimab and it’s an Eli Lilly pharmaceutical product. Guam received 50 doses thus far from the federal government, split in half between GMH and GRMC and we’ll get more as the need arises.
The BLU MED tent was actually already set up at GRMC for Emergency Room overflow so it was easy to convert for this IV treatment clinic.
It’s a negative pressure space, meaning when the tent doors are opened, the air doesn’t just come out. It’s sealed inside the room and exists through a filter to ensure no potential COVID-filled air escapes.
The tent can accommodate up to 6 patients at a time and currently operates from 1-to 5 pm for patients who’ve gotten a referral for the treatment.
All the materials are right on sight.
When patients walk in through the back door, they’re assigned a seat, sign a consent form, and then the process begins.
“Then the nurse will establish an IV and after the IV is established, they’ll call the pharmacy and tell them they have IV access. The pharmacy will mix the medication at that time, deliver it here, and then the medication will be administered. It generally takes an hour…after that hour, we keep patients for an additional hour so we can monitor them for any reactions…so far there have been none,” Woodard said.
Getting the medication to the island was a collaboration between the local health network and the federal government.
“It’s pretty interesting that on Guam, we’re ahead of the curve. Even in the mainland U.S., they’re trying to get their act together to give this drug and we’re already doing it here. It’s kind of nice to not be second fiddle to the mainland for once,” Woodard said.
GRMC doctor and Physician’s Advisory Group member Felix Cabrera says even when a vaccine comes to Guam, people will still get COVID and this medication will still be needed.
“It’ll be quite a while until enough people are vaccinated to not worry about COVID. The vaccine is a prevention measure and this is a treatment measure,” Cabrera said.