BONIFAY – In November of 2020, Doctors Memorial Hospital was the second in the state to give out monoclonal antibody infusions to treat COVID-19 but they didn’t stop there, they went on to become instrumental in the opening of emergency infusion centers in the state.
Senator George Gainer’s office began looking for locations for a place to provide testing, infusions and vaccines with the goal of giving treatment options and to lessen the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Enter DMH. Gainer’s Chief of Staff Andrea Gainey says after speaking with DMH Director of Pharmacy Doctor Warren Bailey, they felt relief.
“We had so many reach out to our office seeking help with treatment for COVID,” said Gainey. “After speaking with Bailey, we felt relief for the first time.”
Treatment options in Bay County were limited from being overrun with confirmed cases, leaving those who had tested positive unable to receive the infusion in the timely manner that is necessary for it to work. The infusion is only an effective form of treatment if a positive test result is found early enough, according to Bailey. “The only way this infusion works is by catching the virus early enough, the key is early detection.”
DMH offered the infusions to anyone who needed them. Bailey says DMH Chief Medical Officer Doctor Huy Nguyen didn’t go into COVID-19 treatment looking for roadblocks.
“Because of Doctor Nguyen making a way, instead of excuses, we were able to come up with ways to get the medication out to our community,” said Bailey. “We didn’t look for barriers, we looked for solutions.”
This is why Gainey says DMH was instrumental in the opening of the centers. “With Doctors Bailey and Nguyen imparting their knowledge to us at any time we called,” said Gainey. “He gave us the ability to know what to ask the state for in regard to emergency infusion centers.
DMH set up drive thru testing where patients who tested positive could drive around to the other side of the hospital and receive the monoclonal infusion without delay which in clinical trials shows a 70 percent reduction in hospitalization and death after treatment.
When the spike of cases began in July mostly due to the Delta variant, Gainer’s office inundated the governor's office with calls and inquiries concerning emergency centers and the lack of treatment availability. With hospitals being overrun with COVID patients, Gainer says the reason the centers were so important was to give hospitals some much needed relief.
“Our hospitals were being inundated with people being diagnosed with COVID-19,” said Gainer. “They needed to focus on those who were very sick with COVID and those that had medical issues unrelated to the pandemic. The emergency centers were imperative to making that happen.”
Although DMH was busy handling local cases, they never once turned anyone seeking treatment away, according to Gainey. “Doctor Nguyen and his staff never failed to help when we called on behalf of our constituents,” said Gainey. “Only because of that, did so many people make a 180 degree turn in their health after receiving the monoclonal treatment.”
By the end of August 2021, people in 44 different zip codes had received the treatment at DMH.
Gainer says the staff at DMH is exemplary in what they do. “A rural hospital set the example for the state,” said Gainer. “These are the kind of people you want healthcare to be.”
On August 20, the first two emergency infusion centers opened in Bay County at the old fairgrounds and in Fort Walton Beach at the Northwest Florida Fairgrounds.
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