Canberra’s new drive-up clinic ready to administer sotrovimab for the treatment of COVID-19 patients

Canberrans, which test positive for COVID-19, will soon be treated at a drive-up clinic, avoiding the risk of spreading the virus to vulnerable patients and staff at the territory’s hospitals.

The clinic, to be driven out of a trailer parked at the Garran Surge Center, will administer an intravenous infusion of sotrovimab – a new monoclonal antibody treatment – to patients who have had COVID-19 symptoms for up to five days.

Patients will drive themselves or be transported to the clinic, where they will receive an infusion of the drug, which has been shown to keep people with mild COVID symptoms from developing more severe features that can lead to hospitalization or death.

Patients will then be sent home to continue their quarantine period and recovery.

The clinic will enable more effective treatment

Canberra Hospital’s COVID-19 wards, acting clinical care coordinator Vanessa Hoban, said the mobile clinic is expected to open later this week and will allow healthcare professionals to treat more patients.

“It actually takes a lot of manpower to get a patient, with COVID, from an ambulance to the main tower where the COVID ward is,” Ms Hoban said.

“For these infusions, it’s only half an hour and then an hour of monitoring, so we could push more through the day than having to do [identification checks and] transfers in the main tower and endangers other people. “

A man in a face mask is standing in front of a vaccination cart
The specialist in infectious diseases Dr. Ian Marr said the drug “works well when no immunity has been formed” in a patient.(ABC News: David Sciasci)

The specialist in infectious diseases, Dr. Ian Marr, said that it was likely that patients who were too ill to drive or be transported to the clinic would not be eligible to receive a sotrovimab infusion – it is most effective in the early days of the virus.

“We have to get it in within five days of getting COVID – so being symptomatic for five days or less is one of the criteria they have to meet,” said Dr. Marr.

“We know the second week of COVID is actually more shocking, so we certainly won’t give it up during that period.”

If any patients become unwell during or after the infusion at the mobile clinic, they will be taken by ambulance to Canberra Hospital on the other side of the road.

A trailer administering COVID treatments is sitting in a gravel parking lot waiting for recipients.
The Sotrovimab trailer has been set up in the parking lot at the Garran Surge Center.(ABC News: Harry Frost)

“It’s not ideal, but most people – if they have caught the symptoms early in the disease process – will benefit them. [from] not having to get into the hospital system, “Ms Hoban said.

Concern has been raised about ventilation, PPE

Opposition health spokeswoman Giulia Jones said staff had expressed concern to her about ventilation in the trailer.

Nurses will be required to wear personal protective equipment (PPE) from head to toe – but there is also no changing room for staff inside the trailer, and Mrs Jones said they would have to “take and take their personal protective equipment off”. “either in setting up tents outside or in the Surge Center itself before walking across the outdoor parking lot.

“Is it really safe for our nursing staff, is it really comfortable for our nursing staff, given that they will perform their normal shifts in this facility?” said Mrs. Jones.

“And why do not we do this in the Garran Surge Center?

A woman in a green spotted dress and a white jacket smiles at the camera
Giulia Jones questioned whether the trailer was safe for nursing staff.(ABC News: Greg Nelson)

But Ms Hoban said appropriate precautions had been taken, noting that there were air purifiers in the trailer and windows that could be opened to provide ventilation.

“We feel pretty safe and we will follow the same practice that we have in the COVID departments and nothing will change there for all our on and off PPE,” Hoban said.

“They want adequate breaks between the patients who come.

She also said patients would be treated inside a “medihood” – a personal ventilation hood mounted over a hospital bed.

Nurses stand in full PPE next to a medihood in a drive up clinic.
Nurses in the drive-up clinic stand next to a medihood in the trailer. (ABC News: David Sciasci)

ACT Health Minister Rachel Stephen-Smith said health authorities would consider moving the clinic into the Garran Surge Center if sotrovimab treatment was used long-term.

“Currently, we are using the Garran Surge Center for testing, it was previously used as a vaccination center before it was used as a test – it has really proven its worth as part of our COVID-19 pandemic response,” Ms Stephen – said Smith.

“We will continue to consider, as we move forward, how much further we need to have that facility in place.”

But dr. Marr said the usefulness of sotrovimab may be short-lived.

“This drug works well when there has not been an immunity, or time for an immunity [to be] formed in the patient, “said Dr. Marr.

“Since Canberrans has done a really good job of getting vaccinated, there may be less and less a window for this drug here in our population.”

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