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St. Mary’s Hospital keeps treating severe blood diseases even amid Covid-19
  • By Shim Hyun-tai
  • Published 2020.05.21 18:10
  • Updated 2020.05.21 18:10
  • comments 0

St. Mary's Hospital, which had kept treating people suffering from hemopathy with severely reduced immune function, released its strategy to continue treatments while dealing with the Covid-19 pandemic.

In March and April, when the Covid-19 pandemic peaked in Korea, the European Society for Blood and Marrow Transplantation issued guidelines that recommend postponing blood-cancer treatment or hematopoietic stem cell transplantation unless they are urgent.

From the left, St. Mary’s Hospital Professors Kim Dong-wook, Lee Dong-gun, Cho Sung-yeon, Park Sung-soo

A significant number of hospitals in the United States also implemented policies to minimize anticancer treatment hematopoietic stem cell transplantation.

However, if the therapy for severe blood disorder patients is stopped or pushed back abruptly, the patients’ condition can severely worsen and become irreversible, leading to a fatal consequence. To solve the problem, St. Mary's Hospital established a proactive Covid-19 preventive strategy instead of reducing the treatment for patients with blood disorders.

The hospital's response strategy included preemptive patient classification using questionnaires, separation of mobile lanes based on the classification, activation of temporary alternative treatment and establishment of separate screening clinics from the main building, expansion of wards for confirmed and suspected patients, and separate operation of blood hospital relief clinic.

It emptied an entire floor with independent air-conditioning for the treatment of Covid-19 patients. It subdivided the wards so that patients with epidemiologic factors, including severe patients or those with pneumonia, could receive care separately.

For instance, a five-year-old Indian girl diagnosed with acute leukemia flew 7,000 kilometers from New Delhi to Korea, on May 5. As soon as the girl arrived in Korea, she was transported to St. Mary's Hospital and took the Covid-19 test. She is now receiving anticancer therapy in a cleanroom after responding negatively to the test.

The hospital said its successful handling of an international patient showed an excellent infection control system that completely prevents infections in hospitals even in the middle of the Covid-19 crisis.

As of March 2020, the number of patients at the blood disease war at St. Mary's Hospital for temporary replacement was 749. Although new patients somewhat decreased, the numbers of both inpatients and outpatients are similar to those of the pre-Covid-19 days, it said. The number of hematopoietic stem cell transplants was also the same as before.

"I hope our example will serve as a reference for doctors and patients around the world, who are unable to perform normal medical treatment due to the Covid-19 pandemic," said Professor Kim Dong-wook of the Department of Hematology at St. Mary's Hospital said.

The research team hopes the treatment of patients with severe blood disorders will proceed without disruption, he added.

The study result was published in the online edition of the British Journal of Haematology (Impact factor 5.206) on Monday.


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