San Diego County health officials have severed ties with a local vaccine supplier after allegations he distributed COVID-19 injections to ineligible patients.
One Medical Group, a San Francisco membership-based healthcare firm, operates offices nationwide, including here in San Diego County, and county officials said it was briefly licensed to distribute vaccines locally. But the county said that stopped once it found out the group was acting as “a membership payment mechanism.”
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“We learned [One Medical] operated as a payment institution for members and immediately reported them to the state, ”a spokesperson for the San Diego County Department of Health and Human Services said.
One physician’s chief medical officer vehemently denied any wrongdoing regarding the provider’s vaccination efforts.
“Any claim that we are largely and knowingly ignoring eligibility guidelines is in direct contradiction to our current approach to vaccine administration,” the statement from Chief Medical Officer Andrew Diamond, MD reads in part. “Recent media reports on One Medical perpetuate dangerous misconceptions about our COVID-19 vaccination protocols.”
An NPR investigation released on Wednesday revealed internal communications from One Medical staff raising questions that the national provider was not closely monitoring the eligibility requirements of members seeking COVID-19 vaccinations. through the supplier’s website. NPR found that “patients who were not cleared to receive the vaccine were still allowed to skip the line before other high-risk patients.” (NBC 7 Investigates did not independently review internal communications reported by NPR.)
NBC Bay Area reports that the San Francisco Department of Public Health, along with a list of other state and local health departments, have stopped allocating vaccines to the health care cabinet after receiving individual complaints that the supplier had vaccinated ineligible patients.
San Diego County officials told NBC 7 they had allowed One Medical to distribute vaccines here locally “early on” in their vaccination efforts.
Officials said One Medical requested 2,000 shots, but the county only gave them 900 doses. The county stressed that in the future, officials will no longer allocate vaccines to the health care provider.
San Diego County officials said they reported One Medical to the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) for further investigation.
A doctor did not say how many of the 900 doses he assigned were distributed locally.
The health care provider’s chief medical officer defended his actions, telling reporters he did not “knowingly vaccinate ineligible patients.”
“Patients don’t have to pay to get vaccinated at One Medical. As we did with COVID-19 testing, we opened up access to the One Medical technology platform for patients, with no membership fees, to provide fair access to appointments for vaccines. “, We read in a press release. “We regularly turn down people who do not meet the eligibility criteria.”
One Medical went on to say that according to its data, 96% of people vaccinated by One Medical in the United States have eligibility documents on file with the health care provider, and the remaining 4% “were generally vaccinated according to zero waste protocols. . ”
The spokesperson added that One Medical’s online platform requires patients to confirm their vaccine eligibility, with “many checkpoints in place – online at the time of appointment, before the appointment. appointment via a labor-intensive “ scheduling ” process, and person-to-point-of-care verification as needed to mitigate abuse of our vaccine reservation system . ”
(To read One Medical’s full statement to NBC 7 Investigates, click here.)
According to One Medical’s website, the healthcare provider is “no ordinary doctor’s office,” offering patients primary care membership for $ 199 per year. Subscribers receive 24-hour care via on-demand services, the website reads. Patients who do not wish to pay the membership fee can also sign up for the free services offered by the provider.
But when it comes to COVID-19 vaccinations, the supplier said membership was not a requirement.
“The majority of people vaccinated by One Medical across the United States are not our own annual dues-paying members, but have been referred by departments of health, including healthcare workers, nursing home patients. , educators and the homeless, ”said Diamond.
When users try to register for immunization appointments in San Diego, the One Medical website now states that appointments are not available at this time … We are working with local health authorities to obtain additional vaccines as soon as possible. ”
From internal communications released by NPR found within the walls of One Medical, employees have sounded the alarm for months about enforcing eligibility requirements for patients seeking vaccines.
NPR reported that these communications included a staff member from One Medical who wrote, “I have questions about our approach of not requiring [patients] to provide proof of vaccine eligibility … A quick Google search indicates that this does not meet the requirements of many states. I am concerned about advertising an overly permissive approach. “
One Medical disputed several elements of NPR’s reports and told the outlet that it had since “terminated several of its clinical staff for failing to meet eligibility requirements.”
Diamond told NBC 7 that despite the reporting, the provider remains committed to the community they serve.
“While this type of report is disheartening for our team members who have worked tirelessly night and weekend to deal with the complexities and challenges of vaccine deployment, we remain committed to serving our communities and hope this report will not hamper our ability to continue doing this vital work, ”a statement read.
But another state discovered problems with One Medical and also stopped allocating vaccines to the supplier for distribution.
The Washington State Department of Health told NPR it received a complaint about One Medical on February 10 and “halted the distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine to the company.”
Back in California, San Mateo and Alameda counties also confirmed to NBC Bay Area on Thursday that they will no longer allocate vaccines to the supplier. San Mateo County health officials said the move was due to a complaint received. Alameda County officials said they had stopped allocating vaccines to One Medical “after learning that the practice was to vaccinate more than their health workers.”
In Los Angeles County, public health officials confirmed to NBC 7 that they continue to work with One Medical and, to date, have assigned more than 5,800 doses to the company.
Los Angeles officials said they also received a complaint about One Medical and, in response, issued a warning to the healthcare provider.
“We received a report at the end of January that they had vaccinated someone who was not a health care worker and public health had followed them and explained their process to them,” it reads. a Los Angeles County press release. “Public health has clearly indicated that they must validate that the people they vaccinate are health care workers or people 65 years of age and over on site at the time of the appointment, otherwise we cannot assign them more. of doses. We have not received any further complaints. ”
The California Department of Public Health did not respond to requests for comment on the ongoing investigations.
A spokesperson for the State Medical Council has confirmed One Medical Group, and its chief medical officer Andrew Diamond has not been subject to any state disciplinary action according to a review of its license history dating back to 2004.
Diamond told NBC 7 that he has not been contacted by any state or local health department regarding any complaints or ongoing investigations.
“We were not told by any of our partners in the health department that there were any ongoing or ongoing investigations,” Diamond told NBC 7 Friday. “As is the case with other large health care providers, it is common for a ministry of health to inquire about concerns that are brought to its attention. This is by no means unique or specific to One Medical. “
To learn more about vaccination efforts in San Diego County, including how eligible patients can schedule an appointment, Click here for the county website.