Nassau University Medical Center, in East Meadow, is facing criticism for allegedly having one of the slowest rates of vaccine inoculation in New York.
At his Monday-morning coronavirus briefing, Gov. Andrew Cuomo called out the hospitals that were slowest to administer the vaccines, and lauded those that had done so the fastest.
The New York Presbyterian Health Care System, based in Manhattan, and Oswego Hospital had the fastest distribution, and had used 99 percent of the vaccines they were allocated by the state. NUMC was listed as the third-slowest, and was reported to have administered only 19 percent.
Cuomo acknowledged that smaller hospitals have an easier time with inoculation efforts, but noted that Northwell Health is the largest hospital in the state, and had already administered 62 percent of its vaccines.
“It’s not just a function of size; it’s a function of administrative capacity,” the governor said. “We want those vaccines in people’s arms.”
NUMC officials took issue with Cuomo’s numbers, saying that the hospital had administered 34 percent of its vaccines but an IT interface issue led to misreported information. Nevertheless, Dr. Anthony Boutin, NUMC’s president and chief executive officer, said that the hospital could be doing better.
NUMC received 797 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, and administered the first one on Dec. 15, to Emergency Room Nurse Gabrielle Desiree, of Baldwin. The following week, it received 2,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine.
Most hospitals in New York state have had the vaccines available for three weeks, but on average have used only 46 percent of them, according to Cuomo. As a result, the state Department of Health updated its guidelines for vaccine allocation.
A hospital that doesn’t use all of the vaccine doses it has received by the end of this week could face a $100,000 fine and risk being disqualified from further vaccine distribution. Going forward, hospitals have seven days after receiving vaccines to use all of them.
“This is a very serious public-health issue,” Cuomo said. “And if you’re not performing this function, it does raise questions about the operating efficiency of the hospital.”
He called on officials in areas with public hospitals, such as County Executive Laura Curran, to step up and take responsibility for vaccine distribution rates. “This is a management issue of the hospitals,” he said. “They have to move the vaccine faster.”
Curran expressed frustration with NUMC at a coronavirus news briefing on Monday, and said she had requested a vaccine distribution plan from the hospital, but never received it. “I want to make sure that doses are administered as quickly as possible,” she said, “because what’s happening now does not meet my expectations for a plan of action.”
County Legislator Richard Nicolello, the Legislature’s presiding officer, put further pressure on Curran in a statement about NUMC’s distribution rate. Nicolello said that Curran must “light a fire” under Robert Detor, whom she appointed last year as board chairman of NuHealth, the public-benefit corporation that runs NUMC.
“. . . By failing to distribute the vaccine, the hospital is failing as a safety net for those most in need of medical care, including communities of color,” Nicolello said.
Curran said that the county joined with Northwell Health to run a Health Equity Task Force, to ensure that vaccines are distributed fairly to communities with the highest infection rates. “This is a full-court press to mobilize our resources to get information out there as soon as we get it, and to get vaccinations out there as soon as we get it,” she said. “We could do this, Nassau. I know we can.”
At her news briefing, Curran also announced the opening of the county’s first vaccine distribution center, at the CCB Building at Nassau Community College in Garden City. The distribution center, run by Northwell Health, began offering vaccination to eligible candidates on Tuesday. Vaccinations, provided by both Pfizer and Moderna, are free, but by appointment only.