Leading the Way

Feel Good Magazine     Summer 2020

Premier Health spearheaded the local response to the COVID-19 pandemic, providing much-needed resources for testing and treatment.

Mike Osowik’s usual health care routine consists of traveling home to Toledo for a consultation with his physician mother. But when Mike showed signs of COVID-19 in March, he couldn’t travel home and didn’t know where to turn. The normally healthy 35-year-old lives in Huber Heights and works in aviation at the Dayton International Airport.

Unable to travel to Toledo because of his illness, Mike was directed to the Premier Health COVID-19 testing site at the University of Dayton (UD) Arena parking lot. Information on the site was provided to his mother when she called the Premier Health Urgent Care in Huber Heights, and an order for the COVID-19 test was written there for Mike.

“I thought it was a great idea to have drive-through testing,” Mike says. “It was fabulous.”

He tested positive and was quarantined at home during his COVID-19 illness. He later was hospitalized for related issues in April. Now recovered, and despite being able to return to work, Mike says he continues to follow protective measures such as wearing masks when going out in public to the grocery store and other stops.

Easily Accessible Testing

The drive through testing site at UD – a joint effort initially of CompuNet Clinical Laboratories, UD, and Fidelity Health Care – was among several leading steps taken by Premier Health in Southwest Ohio in response to the pandemic. The opening of the testing site on March 17 “was a big deal and a game changer,” says Atef Shrit, MD, pathologist and chairman of the CompuNet Clinical Laboratories board of directors. The site allowed easy accessibility and availability of testing.

“The key to preventing those mini outbreaks is to be able to do the testing very quickly,” Dr. Shrit says. As part of its response, CompuNet was able to “significantly” ramp up its testing, allowing use of universal molecular testing for all Premier Health patients, he says.

“This is unique. It is really amazing we are able to do that,” Dr. Shrit says. “The idea that by isolating positive individuals – pre-symptomatic, symptomatic, and asymptomatic – Premier Health facilities will ensure the safety of patients, medical staff, and health care workers.”

“CompuNet has the capacity and continues to add resources so it can provide testing needed for Premier Health hospitals, providers, and the community at-large,” says Kim Stanforth, CompuNet spokesperson.

Therapeutic Intervention

Premier Health also was a leader in the use of convalescent plasma as a potential therapy for COVID-19. Convalescent plasma is not a new concept, having been used experimentally during the Spanish Flu in 1918 and during other disease outbreaks, says Roberto Colón, MD, Premier Health system vice president of quality and safety and associate chief medical officer at Miami Valley Hospital. With convalescent plasma, the plasma – or serum – from those who have recovered from a virus is extracted, and its antibodies injected in someone dealing with the infection. “You keep starting the body immune response to try to fight off the infection,” Dr. Colón says.

Premier Health, the first health system in the nation to implement this treatment, joined forces with Wright-Patterson Air Force Base and the Community Blood Center to start a local convalescent plasma program following the Mayo Clinic protocol for investigational therapeutics for managing patients with COVID-19. The process was initiated at the end of March/beginning of April. In a span of two weeks, it went from concept to therapeutic intervention.

“It took only about 14 days. It was amazing to get all those pieces in there and to start treating patients with this therapeutic intervention,” Dr. Colón says. Premier Health has administered convalescent plasma to more than 100 patients. Before this effort, there were only about 20 documented cases of patients with COVID-19 treated with convalescent plasma. The program also allowed community members who overcame the illness to help others by donating antibodies, Dr. Colón says.

“The addition of treatment will hopefully help experts understand the therapy’s effectiveness, something that won’t be known until all data is analyzed,” Dr. Colón says.

Back to the Summer 2020 issue of Feel Good magazine.

Headshot of Roberto Colón, MD

Roberto Colón, MD

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Atef Shrit, MD