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Nassau University Medical Center criticized by Cuomo over vaccine distribution

Nassau University Medical Center has been singled out

Nassau University Medical Center has been singled out by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo as one of the slowest hospitals in the state in the distribution of its vaccine supply. Credit: Newsday/J. Conrad Williams Jr.

This story was reported by Robert Brodsky, Scott Eidler and Bart Jones. It was written by Jones.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo on Monday called out Nassau University Medical Center for failing to quickly administer the COVID-19 vaccines it has received, though hospital officials said their record is better than what the governor contended.

Still, hospital officials admitted that the 34% of the vaccines they said they have administered was too low. Cuomo said they have used 19%.

While singling out some hospitals for poor performance, Cuomo also heralded top performers, including New Hyde Park-based Northwell Health, the largest hospital system in the state. It has administered 62% of its vaccines.

Hospitals that do not improve their vaccination levels this week can be fined up to $100,000 and may be left out of future allocations of vaccines, Cuomo said on Monday. Going forward, health care systems will be expected to use within seven days all vaccines they receive, Cuomo said. Those moving too slow can be subject to more serious sanctions.

The New York City-based New York-Presbyterian Healthcare System was tops in the state at 99%. The lowest was upstate's Samaritan Hospital at 15%.

Cuomo called on officials in areas with public hospitals to improve the vaccination rate. They included fellow Democrats Nassau County Executive Laura Curran and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio.

Curran expressed frustration and anger at NUMC. She said she has asked the hospital — a public-benefit corporation that is not run by the county — for copies of its vaccine distribution plan.

"I want to make sure doses are administered as quickly as possible, because what’s happening now does not meet my expectations for a plan of action," she said.

Legis. Richard Nicolello (R-New Hyde Park), presiding officer of the Nassau Legislature, said NUMC’s distribution process to date "is inexcusable" and must immediately improve.

"By failing to distribute the vaccine, the hospital is failing as a safety net for those most in need of medical care, including communities of color," he said. "The county executive can try to distance herself from NUMC, but she needs to light a fire under the Chairman of the Board, whom she appointed to run NUMC."

Dr. Anthony Boutin, president and chief executive of NUMC, said the 19% figure was incorrect.

"Because of IT interface issues relating to the reporting of vaccination data, NUMC was inaccurately noted as having a 19% vaccination rate," Boutin said. "In fact, NUMC has distributed 34% of the vaccines received."

Still, Boutin said: "We agree with the Governor that this is not an optimal percentage. We have been increasing the availability of scheduling appointments since the second week of receiving the vaccines. It is NUMC’s priority to safely distribute to all of our staff that requests the vaccine, while being aware of scheduling implications for each department."

Boutin noted the hospital is extending daily vaccination hours to 16 hours a day and vaccines will be provided on weekends. NUMC is working with federally qualified health centers, which treat predominantly uninsured and low-income patients, "to publicize to the community the eligibility priority criteria directed by New York State and how those eligible can schedule their vaccine appointments using the New York State scheduling website."

He added: "We are confident that our continued work with the Governor’s Office and our partnership with County Executive Curran’s office will significantly increase our daily distribution of vaccines to the community."

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