The Pike County Commissioners on March 3 expressed frustration to the Department of Health regarding the difficulty of getting vaccines to county residents.
Commissioners Chairman Matthew Osterberg said while the county’s Office of Emergency Management has worked hard to get vaccines into the arms of thousands of Pike County residents, but the county still has provider gaps.
Osterberg said the county has had good results with Wayne Memorial Hospital in Honesdale but needs to have events so residents know where they can get vaccinated.
“(This virus) has created many problems, but it has highlighted many more, like how important health care access is at all times,” said Meaghan Abbot, Director of Intergovernmental Affairs from the state Dept. of Health.
Commissioners expressed concern that Wayne Memorial, which can mobilize the vaccine, is getting less than private practices that may have trouble storing it or, getting people vaccinated.
“There is vaccine in many places in Pike County and they don’t have the ability to get it out,” Commissioners Chairman Ronald Schmalzle said. “And they’re getting more vaccine.”
Pike County faces an additional challenge in that it does not have a hospital.
“Without their own health care facility, they rely on Wayne Memorial, and it seems like they are penalized for not having their own health care facility,” State Sen. Lisa Baker (R-20) said. “Wayne Memorial is not being treated as their health care facility.”
Osterberg said commissioners are looking to make sure Wayne Memorial Hospital is treated as Pike County’s health care facility and it gets enough allocation of the vaccine to serve residents of both counties.
“We’re advocating for that health system to be given greater access because it reaches into a two-county area and has been trying to fill this gap,” Baker said.
No centralized registration
Commissioners Vice Chairman Ronald Schmalzle said constituents don’t know who to call to get vaccinations, and there is no one to call in Pike County to get a vaccine and people are signing up on multiple vaccine sites hoping to get an appointment.
Schmalzle asked if there was any way there can be one centralized place to register.
“There’s a lot of things to consider with a central registry and we don’t want to make it harder,” Abbot said.
Commissioner Steve Guccini asked how the state allocates vaccine to the counties and said it would be helpful for it to be more centralized with hospitals.
Abbott said the department looks at the number of Covid-19 cases and deaths, the number of people older than 65. They look at that on a countywide basis and then look at capacity to accept the vaccine.
Baker asked if there was a way to prioritize the hospital.
“When you talk about barriers to access, this shouldn’t be a barrier because we have a capable and willing partner that has not been given the resources to address the need and unmet need in this area,” she said.
Baker said many of the calls her office is receiving is for people who need help navigating the system. They don’t know where to go and Wayne Memorial doesn’t know what to tell people. She suggested giving an opportunity to demonstrate going through the hospital can work.
“We have a real need,” Baker said. “We think we can fix it. We need the department to commit to helping us fix it.”
“Without their own health care facility, they rely on Wayne Memorial, and it seems like they are penalized for not having their own health care facility. Wayne Memorial is not being treated as their health care facility.” State Sen. Lisa Baker (R-20)