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Inslee rebukes hospital over vaccine appointments for donors

Inslee rebukes hospital over vaccine appointments for donors
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Washington Gov. Jay InsleeJay Robert Inslee OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Biden seeks GOP support for infrastructure plan | House GOP's planned environmental bills drop Democratic priorities | Advocates optimistic Biden infrastructure plan is a step toward sustainability The Hill's 12:30 Report: Biden meets with bipartisan lawmakers for infrastructure negotiations Inslee signs bill restoring voting rights to parolees in Washington state MORE (D) castigated a Bellevue-based hospital system over an email in which leadership offered appointments for coronavirus vaccinations to major donors.

“We’re pleased to share that we have 500 new open appointments in the Overlake COVID-19 vaccine clinic, beginning this afternoon and tomorrow (Saturday, Jan. 23) and next week,” Molly Stearns, chief development officer at Overlake Medical Center & Clinics, said in the email, according to The Seattle Times.

“If in fact they were giving preference to some VIP list, that’s not the way to do it. That is not acceptable for us. We need to give everybody a fair shot at the vaccine,” Inslee said in a news conference. "We’ve got to maintain public credibility in the system. I’m told that whatever they were doing has stopped, and that’s good news.”

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Florida nursing homes and hospital systems have reportedly offered similar VIP access to donors.

“The whole idea of jumping the line because you’re rich is morally reprehensible,” Arthur Caplan, director of the Division of Medical Ethics at the New York University Grossman School of Medicine, told The Seattle Times. “When you’re trying to combat a plague with scarce resources you really have to expect hospitals and their donors — and others connected with them — should have to wait with everyone else.”

The hospital system has conceded that the offer was a mistake and shut down the invite-only vaccine clinic after receiving a call from Inslee’s office, according to the newspaper. However, Overlake said the offer was also extended to board members and some patients, employees and retired health care workers, and that it was not offered to anyone not currently eligible for the vaccine under state rules.

“We’re under pressure to vaccinate people who are eligible and increase capacity,” Chief Operating Officer Tom DeBord said. “In hindsight, we could certainly look back and say this wasn’t the best way to do it.”

DeBord said the hospital’s “system was overtaxed” after vaccine eligibility was expanded last week to anyone 65 and older. After Overlake ramped up vaccinations, he said, the system was left with 1,400 slots to fill and began emailing people whose contact information was readily available. “It was never intended to be a donor event,” he said.