Area hospitals start COVID-19 trials

Fort Loudoun Medical Center is conducting convalescent plasma transfusion trials for patients with COVID-19. The hospital also recently received a $136,545 grant as part of the statewide Small and Rural Hospital Readiness Grant program.

Fort Loudoun Medical Center, in conjunction with other local Covenant Health hospitals, has introduced plasma transfusion clinical trials for patients suffering from COVID-19.

Convalescent plasma is donated by patients who have recovered from COVID-19 and is being given experimentally to current COVID-19 patients experiencing severe or life-threatening symptoms.

“Plasma is the liquid component of blood that contains many useful proteins and antibodies,” Dr. Mark Williams, Covenant Health pathologist and trial director, said in an email correspondence. “It is commonly used in the daily practice of medicine for treating certain conditions. Convalescent plasma refers to plasma that has been donated by patients who have recovered from COVID-19 and is likely to contain antibodies to the SARS-CoV 2 virus.”

The Expanded Access to Convalescent Plasma for the Treatment of Patients with COVID-19 trial is sponsored by the Mayo Clinic, and includes about 2,000 hospitals and 5,000 physicians nationwide.

The main purpose of the national protocol is to determine the safety and efficacy of treating acutely ill COVID-19 patients with convalescent plasma.

“Convalescent plasma transfusions have been used effectively in the past to treat other viral infections, and preliminary results indicate that it may be effective for speeding recovery from COVID-19 and possibly saving lives,” Williams said.

Since there is no specific treatment for COVID-19, the Food and Drug Administration recently approved convalescent plasma for emergency investigational use. Plasma was first used in early May at Cumberland Medical Center in Crossville.

“This particular use of blood plasma is only for hospitalized adult patients who are at least 18 years old, showing signs and symptoms of COVID-19 infection and who are positive for the SARS-CoV 2 virus,” Williams said. “Any patient admitted to a Covenant Health facility, and who is determined to be eligible, will be given the opportunity to participate in the national protocol and receive this treatment if available.

“While this treatment may be beneficial to patients already suffering from COVID-19, it has not been proven to be effective at preventing healthy persons from getting sick from the disease, and no evidence suggests that it limits the spread of the virus from person to person,” he added.

Patients who participate in the trial will be asked if they would be willing to donate plasma once they have recovered.

“Since availability of this treatment relies on donations, it’s our hope that anyone who has recovered from this illness would consider contacting their local blood donation center regarding their recovery from COVID-19 and would donate their plasma for this common cause,” Williams said.

“As of today, no patients at FLMC have received the plasma transfusion, but the protocol is in place and ready to go when needed,” Tonya Stoutt-Brown, Covenant Health media specialist, added.


Loudoun gets grantFLMC is among six of Covenant Health’s member hospitals selected as recipients of the Small and Rural Hospital Readiness Grant program.

The hospitals are part of a statewide distribution of $10 million to support smaller hospitals facing financial strain as a result of the ongoing response to COVID-19. The program was signed into action April 6 by Gov. Bill Lee.

Fort Loudoun will receive $136,545 to help with operational costs and hospital services.

“Fort Loudoun is grateful to have received these grant funds,” Jeffrey Feike, administrator, said in an email correspondence. “This will help us continue to provide safe, high quality care that improves the health of our community. We’ll be using these monies to help us offset operating losses caused by declines in revenue during the temporary suspension of elective surgical procedures in March and April. The funds also will help cover ongoing operating costs including payroll, physician support, utilities and many other daily expenses.”