Independent physicians, ASCs sometimes left out of COVID-19 vaccine plans

Independent physicians don't have access to the COVID-19 vaccine in some communities because hospitals are prioritizing their own employees.

A Jan. 1 article in the Philadelphia Inquirer reported that physicians and nurses regularly interacting with COVID-19 patients haven't been offered the vaccine because they aren't employed by a hospital. There are about 450,000 healthcare workers in Pennsylvania not employed by a health system, and the state updated guidance last week requiring hospitals and pharmacies to save 10 percent of vaccine shipments for them beginning Jan. 6.

The Pennsylvania health department instructed hospitals and health systems to design a process for delivering COVID-19 vaccines to independent physicians, nurses and care providers.

Independent ASCs across the U.S. have reported similar experiences in the weeks since the vaccine became available. If surgeons or centers had a partnership with hospitals, they have had access to the vaccine. But those ASCs without a relationship with local hospitals are reaching out to local health departments for help.

Jacqueline Barrett, RN, administrator of Pomona, Calif.-based Casa Colina Surgery Center, told Becker's that nonclinical staff members weren't initially vaccinated since they aren't considered front-line workers. However, in recent days neighboring Casa Colina Hospital and Centers for HealthCare has offered to provide the vaccine to the center's staff.

The staff of Illinois Sports Medicine & Orthopedic Center in Morton Grove also lack access to the vaccine as a standalone facility. Administrator Lawrence Parrish said the center and its affiliated orthopedic surgery practice submitted documents to the Illinois health department to eventually receive the vaccine at the ASC, but doesn't have a timetable for when they will get it.

"We are fully prepared to administer and document the administration of COVID-19 vaccine to our staff," said Mr. Parrish. "However, we will be unable to utilize Pfizer's vaccine because of the ultra-cold storage requirement. We do have the capacity to store Moderna's vaccine."

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