When Bureaucratic Methods Collide With Virus Reality
Stories about coronavirus vaccine shortages, logistical failures, and government bungling are cropping up across the country. But one incident out of Georgia shows what happens when all three circumstances collide.
The state seized the vaccines at a medical facility in Elberton, Georgia after reports showed workers has administered coronavirus vaccines to local teachers…who were not on the government-approved list to get shots at the time:
[Dr. Jonathan] Poon and his staff began vaccinating 177 teachers in December, but they say only after they had finished all health care workers in Elbert County who wanted a shot. Teachers are still not in an approved category. Dr. Poon believed the state vaccine policy allowed them to move to other phases if they finished early with the current one.
The Georgia Department of Public Health disagreed. Last month, a DPH team showed up at the family practice clinic with a 10-minute notice and seized most of its vaccine, allowing Elberton to only give second shots to those it had already vaccinated.
It also suspended all future vaccine deliveries to the Medical Center of Elberton for the next six months, stressing that the shortage of supply required providers stick to the approved rollout.
The bureaucratic rigidity on display here would be breathtaking. But there’s more to the story:
…it turns out, Elberton was not the only one coloring outside the vaccine lines. The Floyd Medical Center decided to provide shots to any family member in the immediate household or in regular contact with an employee. Floyd Medical employs 3300 people.
The hospital worried with such high COVID patient counts, staff might have to miss work if a family member also became sick.
“We need our staff to be able to care for our patients,” explained CEO Kurt Stuenkel.
By the same bureaucratic standards, this facility should have been punished, too, right? Not at all:
“They made a decision that they thought was in the best interest of their hospital system to keep their employees working,” said Dr. Chris Rustin. He’s the senior advisor to the DPH Commissioner and head of vaccine planning and logistics.
Rustin also said there’s been no decision on punishment for Floyd Medical.
The only group needing punishment is the health department officials.