Hospital Workers Start to 'Turn Against Each Other' to Get Vaccine
A health care worker at UCI Medical Center shows a vial of Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine in Orange, Calif., On Wednesday, December 16, 2020. (Jenna Schoenefeld / The New York Times)
NEW YORK - At New York Presbyterian Morgan Stanley Children's Hospital, one of New York City's most prestigious hospitals, rumors spread last week that the coronavirus vaccine line on the ninth floor was unguarded and everyone was secretly joining the hospital and receiving it can shot.
According to the rules, the most at-risk health care workers should go first, but soon those from lower-risk departments were vaccinated, including some who worked from home for much of the pandemic.
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The error, which occurred within 48 hours of the first doses arriving in town, aroused anger among staff - and an apology from the hospital.
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"I am so disappointed and saddened that this happened," wrote Dr. Craig Albanese, a senior executive at Morgan Stanley Children's Hospital in New York, in an email to staff received from the New York Times.
The arrival of thousands of vaccine doses in New York City hospitals last week was greeted with a glimmer of hope by doctors and nurses who weathered the devastating first wave in March and April. However, the vaccine is currently very scarce and some hospitals appear to have stumbled upon the introduction.
Most of the vaccinations in the New York area so far have come from hospitals that shot their own staff. This is a relatively straightforward process compared to what's planned under the country's largest vaccination initiative since the 1940s.
The dynamism in New York City hospitals can symbolize what will happen across the country in the near future when all adults get a spot on the vaccination line, either by the government or their employers.
In interviews accompanying this article, more than half a dozen doctors and nurses at hospitals in the New York area said they were upset about how the vaccine was being distributed in their facilities. They described what had happened to the New York Times but asked not to use their names as hospitals were willing to fire or punish employees who had spoken to the news media during the pandemic.
At some of the major Manhattan hospitals, doctors and nurses have remembered every time they saw a selfie one of their coworkers posted about vaccination, they would have scrolled through social media and paused to give a quick judgment : Did this person deserve to be vaccinated before they were vaccinated?
"We feel we are not respected and underestimated because of our secondary vaccination priority," a group of anesthetists at Mount Sinai Hospital wrote to administrators over the weekend.
Health care workers said rumors increased in WhatsApp groups and amid the banter in the operating room. Stories circulate of a plastic surgeon who managed to get an early vaccination and doses given to a Manhattan hospital for poor planning. In group chats, doctors discuss how and whether to try to get vaccinated early.
At Mount Sinai Hospital, some doctors told others that you could persuade yourself to get a vaccine by standing in line and repeating yourself doing "COVID-related procedures," one Mount Sinai doctor recalled out of fear Asked retaliation for anonymity.
A doctor at Morgan Stanley Children's Hospital said, "Of course we're ready to mow each other for this."
Many of the rumors were not true. Nevertheless, they show a growing distrust and the attitude "each for himself", said another doctor from Mount Sinai.
Dr. Ramon Tallaj, who serves on a state task force advising the governor on launching the vaccine, said resentment and resentment would subside as the vaccine became more widespread.
"People will argue about who comes first or who doesn't first, but the most important thing is that it happens," said Tallaj, chairman of SOMOS Community Care, a network of clinics across New York City that treat many Hispanic and patients Asian immigrant communities said about the vaccinations.
Healthcare workers and residents and employees of nursing homes form what is known as Phase 1 of the New York State vaccine distribution plan. About 2 million people belong to this group, and the initial allocation of the vaccine by the state most likely means that Phase 2, which also includes key workers, will not start until late January. (The spread is not expected to begin until the summer, officials have said.)
However, the state has largely left it to each health facility to draw up a vaccination plan in the first phase. During the first week of vaccinations, many hospitals selected a large number of health care workers - nurses, doctors, housekeepers - from emergency rooms and intensive care units to be the first to receive the vaccine in their facilities. But in the days after the festivities that accompanied the first recordings, the mood in the hospitals changed.
When asked about workers who cut the vaccination line at Morgan Stanley Children's Hospital, New York-Presbyterian said in a statement, “We are proud to have vaccinated thousands of patient-faced workers in just over a week, and we will continue to do so do until everyone gets a vaccine. We follow all of the New York State Department of Health's guidelines on vaccine priority, initially focusing on ICU and emergency room staff and equitable access for all. "
Nonetheless, the Times interviewed four health workers at Morgan Stanley Children's Hospital, all of whom expressed resentment towards colleagues and were dismayed that hospital administrators had allowed the vaccine distribution system to be passed on.
A nurse at Morgan Stanley Children's Hospital said she went so far as to confront a social worker who she believed jumped the line on why the social worker thought she deserved the vaccine before anyone else.
"She said," We have to go to the emergency room at some point, "but that's not true," said the nurse of the social worker.
In some places, doctors and nurses who work in special COVID-19 units have not been included in the priority group. At Morgan Stanley Children's Hospital, some of these nurses said they needed to be vaccinated a week after the vaccinations started.
"I think the sad thing is that people are starting to turn against each other," said a doctor who works at the hospital. “Can you honestly say this employee deserves it before I do? No, but nobody deserves it before anyone else. "
Another doctor who worked in an intensive care unit at the children's hospital remembered the scene last week: a group of staff strode energetically towards the elevator benches where a vaccination station was waiting for them. One of them even casually stated that they were on their way to get the vaccine.
"It was an all-rounder," said the doctor, who asked for anonymity for fear of retaliation from the hospital.
Albanese, the children's hospital's chief operating officer, turned to the all-rounder in the email, blaming the vaccination team for ensuring that vaccinations weren't limited to people on their list.
"We need to prioritize the teams with the highest risk," he wrote.
At the Mount Sinai Hospital in Manhattan, the vaccine rollout in the atrium of the hospital, which employees cross during the entire working day or with a snack or coffee, was clearly evident. Many doctors and nurses said they would take a look at who is in line - and whether that person is up to the government's recommendations for those who should be prioritized.
"Despite our strict and strict vaccination policies and procedures, we are aware of a handful of allegations of inappropriateness," Mount Sinai said in a statement. “For reasons of confidentiality, we cannot speak to a specific individual problem. However, allegations of misstep are properly and thoroughly investigated.
Last weekend, anesthesiologists who had been instrumental in treating the sickest patients during the New York outbreak complained that they had watched others being vaccinated before them.
This led to the anonymous letter to the hospital administrators.
"A boiling point was reached when we observed vaccines being administered seemingly randomly to employees who were not part of the originally planned cohort," read the letter, sent anonymously on behalf of the "Affected Faculty Members", by the Department of Anaesthesiology, perioperative and pain medicine. The letter was first reported by Politico.
In interviews, several anesthesiologists on Mount Sinai found that their colleagues in several other hospitals had already been vaccinated.
The anesthesiologists said they expected to play a major role in the second wave if hospital admissions continued to rise, and in recent days some in the department have been vaccinated.
But just last week, an email from the head of the anesthesiology department, Dr. Andrew Leibowitz, asked about volunteers willing to work full-time in a department for seriously ill COVID-19 patients in case the outbreak worsens. Some in the department felt that they were told that volunteering could be beneficial.
"I am examining the possibility that people who volunteer to fulfill this task may be vaccinated earlier than would otherwise be the case," wrote Leibowitz.
Leibowitz did not immediately respond to requests for comments.
One anesthetist said he realized it was sensible to vaccinate the volunteers first.
But he also said it "feels like they are using the vaccine as a bargaining chip".
This article originally appeared in the New York Times.
© 2020 The New York Times Company
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