Seneca treats two staffers with COVID therapeutic

By Debra Moore

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Seneca Health Care District is in the midst of a coronavirus outbreak, but CEO Shawn McKenzie said that he believes the facility is on the “downhill side of this.”

There are currently 20 staff members who have been identified and sequestered, as well as 12 patients in the skilled nursing facility who have tested positive.

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McKenzie said that the district has undertaken a variety of efforts to support the sick staff members, including shopping and providing food for them. Doctors are managing their symptoms, with two of those staff members being treated with a therapeutic drug similar to the Regeneron that was used to treat President Trump.

“It was set up through Dr. Satterfield,” McKenzie said. Dr. Mark Satterfield is the county’s health officer and he arranged to have two doses of the therapeutic couriered from Tehama County for use at Seneca. The drug, which is in short supply was distributed to hospitals throughout the state, but none of the hospitals in Plumas County received any. Satterfield said that Public Health Information Officer Lori Beatley started making calls and secured the doses. Public Health is working to ensure that the county is included in future distributions.

Satterfield explained that the therapeutic is an appropriate treatment for some patients, such as those who have underlying health conditions, which could lead to hospitalization. Seneca staff evaluated the patients and the parameters of the drug’s use in determining who would receive it.

According to the FDA, the monoclonal antibody therapy, bamlanivimab, is for the treatment of mild-to-moderate COVID-19 in adult and pediatric patients. The FDA authorized its emergency use in early November.

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The FDA reports “While the safety and effectiveness of this investigational therapy continues to be evaluated, bamlanivimab was shown in clinical trials to reduce COVID-19-related hospitalization or emergency room visits in patients at high risk for disease progression within 28 days after treatment when compared to placebo. Bamlanivimab is not authorized for patients who are hospitalized due to COVID-19 or require oxygen therapy due to COVID-19. A benefit of bamlanivimab treatment has not been shown in patients hospitalized due to COVID-19. Monoclonal antibodies, such as bamlanivimab, may be associated with worse clinical outcomes when administered to hospitalized patients with COVID-19 requiring high flow oxygen or mechanical ventilation.

Satterfield and McKenzie said that both individuals were progressing well after receiving the treatment. As for the other staff members, McKenzie said that there have been no transfers out and everyone is doing well with outpatient care.

With that many staff members who provide direct patient care unavailable, staffing has been a challenge. “We are in contingency staffing right now,” McKenzie said, adding that some travelers who worked at Seneca in the past have returned to help out. However he is optimistic that staff members will be returning to work soon.

Seneca is an acute care hospital and does not have an ICU. Typically patients who need advanced care are sent to Enloe Medical Center in Chico, whether it’s COVID or non COVID-related. But Seneca is prepared to treat COVID patients that do not require intubation or a ventilator in the event Enloe reaches capacity.

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McKenzie also is developing a contingency plan and is working with facilities such as Adventist Health through Rideout Memorial Hospital in Marysville.

Skilled nursing facilities have been hit across the country, and McKenzie said the hospital did a good job of keeping the virus at bay for a long time. “Countrywide, statewide, countywide … we’re all aware of what they’re (skilled nursing homes) are facing.”

All patients and staff are being routinely screened, not only at the skilled nursing facility, but throughout the campus. “Hopefully we’ve knocked this down,” he said.