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So, you mean: A hospital can leverage COVID-19 vaccines for its bottom line?

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(© M.Rode-Foto –

Sentara RMH is prioritizing patients who use its doctors as primary care providers over patients who don’t in the distribution of COVID-19 vaccines.

This according to reporting in the Daily News-Record, which tells us that Sentara RMH is citing limited resources for its decision.

We checked with Augusta Health and UVA Health to inquire about their policies with respect to prioritization.

Neither has a policy similar to Sentara RMH in place.

“We have been vaccinating community members ages 75 and older at the direction of the Blue Ridge Health District (the health district that includes Charlottesville and Albemarle). Basically, we vaccinate those 75 and older who are directed to us by the health district,” Eric Swensen, the public information officer for UVA Health System, wrote to me in an email.

I wrote back to confirm that UVA Health wasn’t prioritizing patients who use UVA Health System providers.

His answer: “Correct. That’s my understanding.”

Similar from Lisa Schwenk, the director of communications and public relations at Augusta Health.

“CSHD is our lead agency,” she wrote to me in an email. CSHD is the Central Shenandoah Health District. “Under their direction, our current clinics include (aside from some healthcare workers who have not yet received their full doses) are community members who live in Staunton, Augusta County and Waynesboro who are age 65 and over. We direct folks to the CSHD survey to get their names on the list.  CSHD send us the contact information, and when we have available vaccine, we sent a link for the next day’s schedule to people from the list.

“The list is much longer than the appointments available the next day (the last update described how we reconcile and resend the link to those who did not get vaccinated so they don’t have to keep signing up).  We did originally start with age 75 and above, but this week’s lists from CSHD started including those 65 and up.”

We linked above to the article in the DNR, by reporter Ian Munro, and encourage you to go read it.

Munro details how he has been trying for a couple days to get the office of Gov. Ralph Northam and the Virginia Department of Health to offer an explanation for why healthcare providers are allowed to prioritize their own patients over nonpatients in vaccinations.

He also detailed that the Central Shenandoah Health District hasn’t responded to him on the question.

They need to. All of them need to.

As one provider noted in Munro’s story, the vaccines were paid for by the federal government, they’re a public good – and now, this is me editorializing here, but it’s unconscionable that a hospital that is, in essence, a business, is allowed to leverage a public good to the benefit of those with whom it has a business relationship.

Story by Chris Graham

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