Blood Drive 4.jpg

Empty blood vials wait to be filled during the Battle of the Badges Blood Drive at Intercourse Fire Company, on Thursday, September11, 2014.

Two more health systems with a presence in the Lancaster area have started using plasma donated by people who have recovered from COVID-19 as an investigational treatment for some patients, and another is looking to do so soon.

UPMC, the Pittsburgh-based parent organization of UPMC Pinnacle, administered plasma for the first time last week, and local spokeswoman Kelly McCall said it is available at all the system's hospitals.

WellSpan Health posted Monday that its doctors have used plasma "for some of the sickest COVID-19 patients at WellSpan Good Samaritan Hospital, WellSpan Chambersburg Hospital and WellSpan York Hospital."

It noted that only people who are critically ill and hospitalized qualify for the treatment.

"Since this is a new disease, the effectiveness and safety of plasma is not yet proven," said Dr. Qammar Abbas, M.D., a pulmonary and critical care specialist with WellSpan Pulmonary and Sleep Medicine. "However, we’ve seen some patients improve significantly following treatment with convalescent plasma with no significant side effects so far."

Dr. Michael Ripchinski, chief clinical officer of Penn Medicine Lancaster General Health, said Tuesday that it is "in the home stretch" of working toward offering plasma treatment.

Penn State Health started trying plasma earlier this month

WellSpan said people who have recovered from COVID-19 should be symptom-free for 28 days before trying to donate plasma. The system has some of its own blood donation offices and also works with The Central Pennsylvania Blood Bank.

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