San Diego County health officials cut ties with a local vaccine provider after allegations that he distributed pictures of COVID-19 to non-eligible patients.
A medical group based on health practice membership outside of San Francisco has offices nationwide, including here in San Diego County, and county officials said it was allowed to distribute vaccines locally for a short time. But the county said it stopped after finding the group acted as a “membership fee facility.”
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“We learned [One Medical] works as a membership fee and immediately reports them to the state, ”said a spokesman for the San Diego County Department of Health and Humanitarian Services.
The chief medical officer of One Medical categorically denied any wrongdoing with regard to the vaccine provider̵
“All allegations that we are grossly and deliberately disregarding the eligibility guidelines are in direct conflict with our actual approach to the administration of vaccines,” said Andrew Diamond, MD, in a partial statement. “Recent media reports about One Medical continue the dangerous public misconceptions about our COVID-19 vaccine protocols.”
An NPR investigation released on Wednesday found internal messages from One Medical employees raising questions about the national provider, which does not strictly control eligibility requirements for members seeking COVID-19 photos, through the provider’s website. The NPR found that “patients who were disqualified from receiving the vaccine were allowed to cross the line in front of other high-risk patients.” (NBC 7 Investigates did not independently review the 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, has stopped distributing vaccines in health practice after receiving individual complaints that the provider vaccinated patients who did not respond. of the conditions.
San Diego County officials told NBC 7 that they had allowed One Medical to distribute vaccines here locally “early” in their vaccination efforts.
Officials said One Medical requested 2,000 vaccines, but the county gave them only 900 doses. The county stressed that officials would no longer distribute vaccines to the healthcare provider.
San Diego County officials said they reported to One Medical of the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) for further investigation.
A medical professional would not say how many of the 900 doses distributed by him are distributed locally.
The healthcare director’s chief medical officer defended his actions, telling reporters that he “deliberately did not vaccinate patients who did not meet the conditions.”
“Patients do not have to pay to be vaccinated at One Medical. “As we did with the COVID-19 test, we opened access to the One Medical technology platform, without membership fees, to ensure equal access to vaccine appointments,” the statement said. “We routinely reject people who do not meet the eligibility criteria.”
One Medical went on to say that according to their data, 96% of people who have been vaccinated by One Medical in the United States have eligibility documentation in the health care provider’s archives, and the remaining 4% “have usually been vaccinated according to zero loss protocols. ”
The spokesman added that One Medical’s online platform required patients to confirm that they were eligible for the vaccine, with “numerous checkpoints – online at the time of booking for an hour, before the appointment through a time-consuming” scan schedule “process and within check the person at the point of care, if necessary – to mitigate the 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 not a “regular doctor’s office” and offers patients first aid membership for $ 199 a year. Subscribers are provided with round-the-clock care through on-demand services, the website says. Patients who do not want to pay the membership fee can also sign up for free services offered by the provider.
But as for vaccinations against COVID-19, the provider said membership was not a requirement.
“Most people vaccinated by One Medical in the United States are not our own annual contributors, but have been recommended by health departments, including health workers, nursing home patients, caregivers and the homeless,” Diamond said.
When users try to sign up for vaccination appointments in San Diego, the One Medical website now states that the appointments are “Currently not available … We are working with local health professionals to get additional vaccines as soon as possible.
Internal messages posted by NPR found on the walls of One Medical, officials raised alarms for months regarding the application of eligibility requirements to patients seeking vaccines.
NPR reports that these messages include a One Medical employee who wrote: “I have questions about our approach, which does not require [patients] to prove proof of vaccine eligibility … A quick Google search shows that this is not in line with the requirements of many countries. I’m concerned about advertising an overly permissive approach. “
One Medical challenged several elements of NPR reporting and told the site that it has since “dismissed several members of its clinical staff for ignoring eligibility requirements.”
Diamond told NBC 7 despite reporting, the provider is still committed to the community it serves.
“Although this type of reporting is discouraging for our team members who have worked tirelessly on weekends and weekends, dealing with the complexity and challenges of introducing the vaccine, we remain committed to serving our communities and hopefully this a report does not interfere with our ability to continue to do this vital work, “the statement said.
But another state found problems with One Medical and stopped distributing vaccines to the vendor for distribution.
The Washington Department of Health told NPR that it had received a complaint about One Medical on February 10 and had “stopped the distribution of the company’s COVID-19 vaccine.”
Back in California, San Mateo and Alameda counties also confirmed to the NBC Bay Area on Thursday that they would no longer distribute vaccines to the provider. San Mateo County health officials said the move was due to a complaint. Alameda County officials said they stopped distributing vaccines to One Medical “after learning that the practice was planning 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 have distributed more than 5,800 doses to the company to date.
Los Angeles officials said they, too, had received a complaint about One Medical and responded by warning the healthcare provider.
“We received a report in late January that they had vaccinated someone who was not a health worker, and that public health had tracked them down and made them explain their process,” a statement from Los Angeles County said. “Public health has made it clear that the people who vaccinate are HCW or those at 65+ on site at the time of appointment, otherwise we cannot give them more doses. We have not received any further complaints. “
The California Department of Public Health did not respond to requests for comment on upcoming investigations.
A spokesman for the state’s medical council confirmed One Medical Group and its chief medical officer, Andrew Diamond, had not faced state disciplinary action, according to a review of the history of its 2004 licenses.
Diamond told NBC 7 that he was not affiliated with any state or local health department in connection with complaints or active investigations.
“We have not been informed by any of our health partner departments that ongoing or upcoming investigations are ongoing,” Diamond told NBC 7 on Friday. “As with other major health care providers, it is common for the health department to be informed of any concerns that have been reported to them. This is in no way unique or specific to One Medical. “
To learn more about vaccination efforts in San Diego County, including how eligible patients can book an appointment, Press here for the county website.