California hospital sanctioned after school district skips vaccine line

Santa Clara County has barred a California hospital from receiving more COVID-19 vaccine doses, after the facility offered school district staff the ability to obtain appointments and shots ahead of higher priority groups, according to a letter shared with Becker's Hospital Review

The county is under the state's vaccine distribution plans. California's phase 1a includes front-line healthcare workers as well as long-term care facility residents. Its phase 1b includes educators and those age 65 or older. Educators are not yet being vaccinated in Santa Clara County because of supply issues, and Good Samaritan Hospital in San Jose, Calif, has not started to broadly inoculate people age 65 or older, according to the sanction letter, dated Jan. 22 and first reported by San Jose Spotlight. However, the Los Gatos Union School District notified its staff that Good Samaritan was offering vaccines to them.

The letter states that the hospital's actions "are inconsistent with…[the] spirit of the state's direction on vaccine eligibility," and "problematic for multiple reasons." Therefore, it is barring the hospital from receiving additional vaccines.

"The county will provide Good Samaritan with sufficient second vaccine doses to complete vaccination of those people who Good Samaritan has already administered a first vaccine dose for, but the county will not provide Good Samaritan with any additional vaccine doses unless and until Good Samaritan provides sufficient assurances it will follow state and county direction on vaccine eligibility and provides the county with a concrete plan through which Good Samaritan will do so," Santa Clara County COVID-19 testing officer Marty Fenstersheib, MD, wrote in the letter to hospital leaders. 

The issue came to light when Los Gatos Union School District Superintendent Paul Johnson told staff in an email that the hospital COO agreed to allow them to make avaccine appointments, according to San Jose Spotlight. The letter included a link to sign up and mentioned the school district's efforts in 2020 to raise funds to provide front-line healthcare workers meals at Good Samaritan.

But in a follow-up email to Los Gatos Union School District staff, Mr. Johnson denied a direct link between the vaccinations and the staff's previous efforts, according to the San Jose Spotlight.

"In my email to you, I mentioned the service opportunity last year. (Feed Our Heroes) We did that out of the sincerity of our hearts for the medical front-line workers as part of a Los Gatos communitywide effort," Mr. Johnson wrote, according to the publication. "We did not 'give' to 'get.' The Good Sam vaccination efforts are not tied to our service, and I'm sorry if this was miscommunicated."

Joe DeSchryver, CEO of Good Samaritan Hospital, also issued a statement, which was shared with Becker's.

He said hospital recently expanded its vaccinations so that it wouldn't waste supply that was already thawed. 

"Subsequently, we realized we were in error and do sincerely apologize for any confusion this may have caused to our community and our colleagues," he said. "We are committed to working with the county on a plan to assure we have clarity and are adhering to the state and county guidelines on vaccine eligibility, which we have done so prior to this isolated incident. Additionally, we are conducting an internal investigation to look at our processes and systems to ensure this does not happen again."

Read the entire San Jose Spotlight report here


More articles on leadership and management:
North Carolina health system CEO apologizes for COVID-19 vaccine sign-up problems
What Dr. Rochelle Walensky said on her first day as CDC director
3 healthcare executive actions expected from Biden this week 

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