Coronavirus News: Family learns experimental COVID-19 treatments can vary by hospital

LONG ISLAND (WABC) -- Many families who have critically ill loved ones hospitalized with COVID-19 are willing to try anything to help them recover, including some experimental treatments we've heard so much about.

But the treatments available can vary depending on where a patient is hospitalized.

"He needs it now, he needs it ASAP," said Shirley Gaule, whose brother, Raul, is a nurse who's used to taking care of patients in the nursing home where he works.

Now, the 34-year-old father of two is the one who needs help after testing positive for COVID-19.

"It's very frustrating because I see it and say, 'Oh that's for my brother,'" she said. "And he can't get it, and then it's like we're stuck."

Raul has been on a ventilator at Mather Hospital, part of Northwell Health, since Thursday.

"His final thing was he couldn't breathe," Shirley said. "And that's when I said, nope, you have to go to the ER."

Shirley said she has been trying to get him experimental plasma treatments and the recently approved drug for emergency use Remdesivir that could shorten symptoms. But she told 7 On Your Side Investigates that it wasn't available at the Long Island hospital.

That was as of Monday afternoon.

"You would think they're all connected, because some hospitals do have it," she said. "But they don't have it in that particular hospital for some reason, I don't know why."

Shirley said Raul remains in critical condition and is unable to be transferred to another facility.

Hospitals that don't have their own plasma programs register for what's called the Expanded Access Program online and request plasma. Once they're registered, they can make a patient plasma request and have the plasma in a matter of hours.

After 7 On Your Side Investigates reached out to the hospital, a spokesperson said they finished registering for convalescent plasma on Monday and that the patient has now been enrolled. That means Raul could receive the plasma as early as Tuesday.

"There's a hospital 15 minutes away that has everything that he needs," Shirley said. "If I would've known this from the beginning, I would've sent him there."

As for Remdesivir, this use is new, and the company said it's shipping it out to hospitals this week.

Northwell Health said it has patients signed up for trials of the drug at two of its hospitals on Long Island, but not the hospital where Raul is located.

Local public health experts suggest patients and hospitals reach out directly to the manufacturer to get it and, in a statement, that's what the hospital said it's doing.

"Northwell Health has also reached out to Gilead Sciences to seek emergency use of Remdesivir for this patient and others throughout Northwell who are not among the 34 patients already enrolled in the Remdesivir clinical trials now available at North Shore University Hospital and Long Island Jewish Medical. We have not yet heard back from Gilead on the emergency use requests. "

"This is a pandemic," Shirley said. "Everybody should have what people need to get better. It's just crazy. I don't understand."

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