EDITORIAL: Punishing hospitals not the answer to vaccination issues

COURTESY ELLIS MEDICINEMaygen Cardona, manager of Clinical Pharmacy Services at Ellis Medicine, administers the COVID vaccine to Maycol Alarcon, a nurse practitioner in Ellis' hospitalist group, on Wednesday at Ellis Hospital. The Schenectady hospital on Wednesday began vaccinating its own staff and workers at other hospitals through a state-sponsored initiative.
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COURTESY ELLIS MEDICINE
Maygen Cardona, manager of Clinical Pharmacy Services at Ellis Medicine, administers the COVID vaccine to Maycol Alarcon, a nurse practitioner in Ellis' hospitalist group, on Wednesday at Ellis Hospital. The Schenectady hospital on Wednesday began vaccinating its own staff and workers at other hospitals through a state-sponsored initiative.

Of course we all want as many people as possible to get the coronavirus vaccine.

That’s especially true given the news that the more virulent strain of the virus has been detected in Saratoga County.

But Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s threat on Monday to fine hospitals up to $100,000 and strip them of future vaccine supplies should they not distribute them within seven days is a punitive, unfair and potentially harmful approach to the process.

Many hospitals are already struggling financially. Fining them tens of thousands of dollars isn’t going to do anything other than contribute to those financial problems.

Will these financial penalties result in more vaccinations being distributed, or will they just hamstring hospitals’ future efforts to vaccinate citizens?

And what happens to local medical care should hospitals be forced to cut back on services due to even greater fiscal stresses pushed on them by the state?

From a public protection point of view, taking away a hospital’s future vaccine supplies and redistributing them elsewhere will only deprive local residents of the opportunity to get the vaccine. In that case, the governor risks putting one region at risk to benefit another.

Cuomo tried this sledge-hammer approach to covid enforcement once before, when he threatened to send the National Guard into upstate medical facilities to confiscate ventilators and personal protection equipment for use downstate.

It didn’t work then, either.

Not only is this latest edict unfair, the slow distribution of the vaccines may be partially the state’s fault.

Hospitals can be heavily fined if they don’t follow strict protocols to ensure that priority populations – medical professionals and nursing homes – get the vaccine first. So on one hand, the state wants to get out as many vaccinations as possible. But on the other, it’s limiting distribution.

If hospitals are having trouble distributing the vaccines, it would be better for the state to help them rather than punish them.

Are hospitals holding on to vaccines to conform to the distribution protocol? Then make exceptions. Are they not reaching out enough to those who should get it first? Are they poorly managing the roll-out, an issue the state can help with by setting up more distribution points and promoting drive-up vaccinations?

Surely, hospitals should be accountable for distributing the vaccine. But the state also has a role.

The state and hospitals need to get on the same page and work out their issues.

Making threats and singling out hospitals for blame will do nothing but make solutions more difficult to come by.

Categories: Editorial, Opinion

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