ANNAPOLIS — Gov. Larry Hogan Friday blasted area hospitals who might be skirting state guidelines by providing board members and others access to coronavirus vaccinations based on their relationship with the medical facility rather than being eligible under the current state plan.
More than 1.2 million Marylanders who are currently eligible to receive a dose of the coronavirus vaccine continue to struggle to find an available appointment. Meanwhile, some hospitals say they are offering doses to board members and other employees not involved in direct patient care.
Hogan cautioned hospitals to follow state guidelines.
“If anybody is doing something that is against state policy and they are vaccinating people who are not eligible then we’ll try, I’m sure, the state health department will take action against them,” Hogan told reporters on the same day he announced an easing of restrictions for hospital and nursing home visits as well as aid for schools to reopen to in-person learning.
The governor’s comments come one day after a report by The Daily Record in which two area medical centers acknowledged providing vaccinations to board members, some of whom may not fall directly into one of three phases currently eligible for a vaccination.
A spokesman for Annapolis-based Anne Arundel Medical Center said it offered vaccinations to its 21 board members and the 11 board members of Luminis Health, its parent company, after it finished vaccinating its employees, a spokesperson for the health care system confirmed in an email.
Dr. Mitchell Schwartz, Chief Medical Officer and President of Physician Enterprise at Luminis Health, was tapped by Hogan last spring to serve on his state coronavirus response task force.
The Greater Baltimore Medical Center, which is based in Towson and operates multiple locations in and around Baltimore County, also said it had offered vaccinations to its board members. Spokesman John Lazarou said in a statement that GBMC “prioritized staff and providers at the highest risk before offering shots to others.”
GBMC stated that it did not offer special prioritization to board members’ families. While AAMC did not specify whether board members’ families were offered the chance to be vaccinated, McLeod did note that its board members were allowed to make appointments “as part of our workforce,” and that those appointments were nontransferable.
But Hogan bristled at the idea that some well-connected individuals not otherwise eligible were receiving vaccinations.
“That would be absolutely wrong and we’d like to know the specifics of that,” said Hogan. “If someone’s not qualified, they’re not qualified. If they’re not eligible, they should never receive the vaccine.”
Hogan praised hospitals around the state for partnering with local and state governments in the effort to vaccinate residents, including running the mass vaccination sites at the Baltimore Convention Center and one scheduled to be opened at M&T Bank Stadium. MedStar partnered with Baltimore City to offer mobile vaccination clinics.
“They are doing a lot of things in the community,” said Hogan. “I don’t know the specifics but nobody should be jumping the line.”
The governor announced Thursday that he will begin easing some restrictions on hospital and nursing home visitations.
Each hospital will be allowed to set its own visitation policies under a forthcoming order from the Maryland Department of Health. Each hospital’s policy will be required to conform to CDC guidelines.
Also, indoor visitation at nursing homes will be allowed to resume as early as March 1. To be eligible, a facility must not have any active cases and must also follow testing requirements.
Hospitals and nursing homes have been under tight restrictions since November, when the state saw increases in daily positive cases as well as acute and ICU patients as well as deaths. Those indicators have been decreasing since they reached their peaks on Jan. 11.
Hogan also announced that he will be providing 1 million coronavirus tests — rapid and PCR — to public and nonpublic schools as well as what he described as “unlimited” personal protective equipment in an effort to help schools reopen to in-person learning by March 1.
Hogan called on schools to begin moving toward that goal earlier this year. Since then, about 16 schools have returned to some form of in-person learning. Another six are expected to follow by March. Plans from all 24 school districts are due to the Maryland State Department of Education on Friday.