The New York state attorney general announced Monday that her office was opening an investigation into a Brooklyn-based healthcare provider with a location in Orange County. The investigation is focused on COVID vaccine distribution. The Orange County executive says the investigation should come from higher up.
New York state Attorney General Letitia James released a statement Monday that her office is launching an investigation into ParCare Community Health Network’s distribution of COVID-19 vaccines over allegations that it wrongfully distributed and administered the vaccines. Earlier Monday, Governor Andrew Cuomo told reporters that the state police were investigating and referred the case to the state AG’s office.
“We want to send a clear signal to the providers that, if you violate the law on these vaccinations, we will find out and you will be prosecuted,” Cuomo says.
Cuomo says the state needs to find out whether ParCare falsely represented itself and then distributed the vaccine unfairly and not to priority groups. In a statement, ParCare says it is cooperating with New York’s inquiries. The statement continues, in part, “Governor Cuomo himself stressed the importance of getting all the facts, and providing the facts to the state is exactly what we have done and will continue to do, including information regarding compliance with NYS DOH [New York State Department of Health] procedures for obtaining the vaccine and being approved by NYS DOH for distribution.” ParCare has an urgent care clinic, RamBam Care, in Kiryas Joel, in the Town of Monroe, in Orange County. A packing slip from December 21 provided by ParCare shows DOH approved the delivery of 2,300 vaccine doses to the clinic in Orange County. Republican Orange County Executive Steve Neuhaus addressed the issue during his daily briefing Monday.
How did they get more doses than other facility in Orange County, I don’t know. But I will tell you, I brought up on the call with the governor today that I think the U.S. attorney should investigate that, not the New York state attorney general or a county DA [district attorney], any DA, because those two, the county DAs across the state and the New York state attorney general, politically, is not the right thing to do,” Neuhaus says. “They should have an independent law enforcement agency look into how New York state got vaccinations to a group of people who maybe necessarily didn’t need to get it or shouldn’t have gotten it and shouldn’t have distributed it yet.”
Having administered 869 doses, ParCare returned 1,431. ParCare is based in Brooklyn, with four locations there, one in Manhattan, and the other in Orange County. On Saturday, state Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker issued a statement saying his department was aware of reports that an Orange County healthcare provider may have fraudulently obtained COVID-19 vaccine, transferred it to facilities in other parts of the state in violation of state guidelines and diverted it to members of the public who were not in the priority groups outlined by the state. Here’s Zucker speaking during Cuomo’s Monday briefing.
“We provided them the vaccine because they fraudulently filled out a form that said that they were a qualified health center. That was incorrect, so that’s strike one,” Zucker says. “And, number two, they moved it from one area to another area, which was inappropriate, so that’s strike two; and then they gave it to people who were not on the priority list, and so that was strike three.”
The state's plan calls for the vaccine to first be administered to frontline healthcare workers, such as those who work in emergency rooms and ICUs, as well as nursing home residents and staffers, which is under way. The second phase will be focused on essential workers and individuals in the general public who are most at risk. Again, Cuomo:
“Who’s getting the vaccines? Next week, we expect to open to ambulatory care health workers, public-facing public health workers, again, including those administering the COVID-19 tests,” says Cuomo. “We have now a whole group of people who are interfacing with the vaccines, with the testing, and we want to make sure they get the vaccine.”
Orange County Executive Neuhaus:
“I know some nursing homes that are not getting their first dose of vaccines until next week. We’ve got to speed that up,” says Neuhaus. “In addition to that, I need to make sure that my police, fire, EMS and dispatchers, anybody involved in emergency management, have got to be prioritized as well, right, as well as healthcare workers.”
On December 16, ParCare, on its social media pages, announced that it had been authorized to distribute the vaccine for people who fall under certain criteria, and said to register at parcarevaccine.com or scan the QR code that was posted. In a flyer-type message, the ParCare post said the vaccine was only for people in one of three categories — the elderly, high risk and underlying conditions.
Cuomo says, at this point, ParCare is the only organization the state is looking at for possible criminal activity when it comes to vaccine distribution.