The entrance to one of the intensive care units at Ochsner Lafayette General Medical Center is pictured Wednesday, August 11, 2021, in Lafayette, La.

Ochsner Lafayette General is launching a mobile infusion site to provide high-risk COVID-19 patients monoclonal antibody treatments with the help of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the Louisiana Department of Health.

The unit will be the fifth Lafayette General facility providing monoclonal antibody treatment to high-risk COVID-19 positive patients.

The monoclonal antibody therapy is a one-time, intravenous infusion of synthetic proteins designed to mimic the body’s immune response, which helps neutralize the virus and prevent symptoms from worsening if administered within 10 day of symptoms, the medical center said in a statement.

The treatment is under emergency use authorization with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. A Phase 3 clinical trial of the treatment showed the infusions reduced risk of hospitalization or death by 70% compared to participants who received a placebo, the hospital’s release said.

The 10-chair mobile unit will open Wednesday adjacent to Ochsner Lafayette General Orthopedic Hospital at 2810 Ambassador Caffery Parkway. The unit will initially serve patients Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m., with plans to expand to seven days a week from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Patients will be monitored onsite for an hour after treatment.

Once fully staffed with extended hours, the medical center estimated they’ll be able to provide monoclonal antibody infusions to 500 patients per week at the mobile unit, the statement said.

Services are available to patients who’ve tested positive for COVID-19 and are at high risk for developing severe illness. People in high risk categories include people 65 and older, people with immunosuppressive diseases, people with diabetes and people with asthma or chronic respiratory diseases, per the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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Ochsner Lafayette General’s four other infusion locations are at Ochsner University Hospital & Clinics in Lafayette, Ochsner Acadia General Hospital in Crowley, Ochsner Abrom Kaplan Memorial Hospital in Kaplan and Ochsner St. Martin Hospital in Breaux Bridge. Patients can call 1-833-873-2826 to determine eligibility and schedule an appointment for the infusion, the statement said.

“Given the surge in COVID-19 cases in our area, we are especially pleased to be offering expanded access to mAbs to better serve high risk members of our community. This innovative mobile solution will ensure that we can continue to meet growing demand for treatment while keeping our most vulnerable citizens out of the hospital,” Ochsner Lafayette General Chief Medical Officer Dr. Amanda Logue said.

As of Monday, there were 260 COVID-19 patients hospitalized in Acadiana hospitals, with 64 of those patients on ventilators, per the Louisiana Department of Health’s COVID-19 dashboard. Only eight ICU beds were listed as available in the region.

The health department’s Acadiana region includes Acadia, Evangeline, Iberia, Lafayette, St. Landry, St. Martin and Vermilion parishes.

The therapy is part of a nationwide initiative to expand access to monoclonal antibody therapy for high risk patients announced by HHS in March. Ochsner Lafayette General is the first provider organization in Louisiana to join the initiative, which has supported programs in Texas, Mississippi, California and other states, the medical center’s release said.

HHS invested $150 million to increase access in the therapy and has partnered with multinational business services and accounting firm KPMG LLC to assist in project management and strategic planning to disperse the infusion doses in high-need areas, a company statement said.

The goal is to reach high risk patients in underserved and disadvantaged communities. The treatment is available to patients regardless of immigration status, health insurance coverage or ability to pay. Once an eligible patient receives a positive COVID-19 test result, they can schedule a telemedicine visit for evaluation and qualification for therapy.

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