OhioHealth O’Bleness Hospital in Athens. Photo by Sarah Donaldson.

OhioHealth O’Bleness Hospital on Monday announced the opening of a specialty infusion center for some COVID-19 patients to receive a monoclonal antibody treatment, which may help high-risk individuals recover from the virus if administered early enough in the course of their illness.

According to a news release from the hospital, patients must meet a very specific criteria to receive the treatment, which President Donald Trump received when he was hospitalized and claimed after the fact that it had “cured” him.

Although it’s not clear exactly what criteria O’Bleness patients must meet to get monoclonal antibodies, once cleared for treatment a patient’s provider connects them with the team that preforms the infusions either at the newly opened infusion center or in their home, according to the news release.

“As we continue to combat the rapid and rising spread of COVID-19 in Athens and the surrounding counties, monoclonal antibody infusion has the potential to keep high risk individuals with COVID-19 out of the hospital,” Dr. Lucy Bucher, senior director of medical affairs, said in a statement.

The treatment involves giving monoclonal antibodies as a single dose via IV. The infusion process takes about three hours — an hour for set up, an hour for the transfusion and an hour for observation, Dr. Joseph Gastaldo, OhioHealth medical director of infectious diseases, said in a statement.

The treatment may decrease a patient’s viral load, which could lower the chance of disease progression and hospitalization, the news release said.

“We know that this treatment is generally well tolerated by patients; having the ability to do this in an outpatient setting, keeping these patients out of the hospital, and easing the load for our frontline hospital staff will be ultimately better for them, and the patient,” Gastaldo said.

Health care professionals across the industry remain divided on the efficacy of the treatment, which was approved by The Food and Drug Administration for emergency use authorization. Some say there isn’t enough evidence that the treatment works, while others have hailed it as a saving grace for COVID-19 patients.

Prior to the infusion center’s opening, OhioHealth offered the treatment through its At Home program’s Advanced Home Services in Athens County, the news release said.

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