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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. – As COVID-19 case numbers remain high and bed space remains low, News 19 continues to gather perspectives from leading healthcare professionals in our community.

We’ve heard from nurses, medical educators, and ICU doctors, but Monday we spoke to an ER doctor who says that there are things you can do to prevent severe illness with COVID-19.

“The majority of patients I see are either in a waiting room or sitting in a chair somewhere in a hallway,” said Dr. Ric Koler, an emergency room doctor at Crestwood Medical Center.

He says any healthcare workers have no choice but to treat patients in unconventional places.

“Maybe only 20% I’m actually seeing in a traditional bed or a room like we would normally do, and that’s just to be able to get access to them because there are not enough resources to meet that from a nursing standpoint,” Koler said.

Dr. Koler says the need for hospitalized COVID care is preventable and many doctors and nurses are frustrated by that idea. The extra stress on the facility means patients with more manageable issues aren’t being treated in a timely manner.

“A gentlemen had a large kidney stone, and there was nowhere to put him,” Koler said. “We can’t give him narcotic analgesics sitting in a waiting room where we don’t have someone who can safely observe him. Unfortunately, due to the system and how clogged it has become, that poor guy suffered for a while before we’re able to get him under control, make him comfortable and get him the appropriate care that he needed.”

Dr. Koler says efficiency impacts are one of the biggest fallout from the virus. So he’s asking people, who qualify, to get antibody treatments before the virus puts them in the hospital.

He’s encouraging people in the community to stay informed and be their own health advocates.

Dr. Koler says if monoclonal antibody therapy isn’t offered to you, inquire about it.

“If you have a positive test, call your primary doctor, talk to your health care provider, whoever that may be,” he said. “If you don’t have one, then call one of the hospital emergency rooms and say ‘Hey, I just got a call back that my test was positive and I just checked my body mass is this, how do I go about getting that?’ We will get you directed to where you need to go.”

Koler explained how it feels to watch COVID patients suffer when there are options available before the virus takes a turn for the worst.

“I’ve seen a few people who were eligible, to me they were obviously eligible and hadn’t been offered that therapy,” he said. “By the time we actually are in the inflammatory phase with the disease, you can’t turn back the clock, and in fact, the medications at that point actually may be detrimental.”

Koler said there are no miracle drugs, but there are helpful options, and monoclonal antibody treatment is available for both vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals.