Providence Regional Medical Center Everett. (Olivia Vanni / Herald file)

Providence Regional Medical Center Everett. (Olivia Vanni / Herald file)

Providence gave special vaccine access to donors, volunteers

The Everett hospital has apologized for sending vaccination invites to more than 200 big-money donors.

EVERETT — While many older Snohomish County residents have struggled to get access to a COVID vaccine, more than 200 Providence General Foundation donors, as well as board members and volunteers, were invited to receive a shot earlier this week.

All of the 245 invitees who got a dose Monday at the Everett hospital were eligible under the state’s Phase 1B, spokesman Casey Calamusa said in a statement, but the preferential treatment at the clinic raised concerns of fairness during what has been a slow vaccine rollout.

In all, Providence invited more than 350 people, most of whom were donors, to receive a shot.

The favoritism shown to those who are well connected to medical institutions such as Providence and other Puget Sound region hospitals was first reported by The Seattle Times.

“I appreciate that we made a misstep and that we are learning from this,” Providence Everett CEO Kim Williams said. “I am incredibly sad that somehow we did not apply the equity lens to this clinic.”

The invitations came via email through the hospital’s scheduling system, Williams said, which requires an email address to make an appointment.

She said the hospital is acting quickly to respond to a recent directive by Gov. Jay Inslee that providers administer all doses as soon as possible.

In addition to email addresses, the hospital needed birth dates to ensure everyone was 65 or older.

“We really were, in our haste, still trying to make sure we didn’t send out invites to folks who didn’t meet the criteria,” she said.

Staff sorted through a volunteer database, as well as the hospital’s board members, to find eligible recipients.

Selected volunteers were mostly people who worked in the hospital before COVID and want to return.

They also looked through a donor mailing list.

The hospital chose members of the Friends of Providence Donor Society, which requires a minimum $10,000 in donations to the Providence General Foundation. That’s because they were the only donors for whom the hospital had birth dates on file.

Clinics in Everett, Mill Creek and Monroe have been administering doses to the public for weeks. But this week some of the doses were redirected to the county’s public drive-thru clinics as part of a new state policy. That caused cancellations for some, Williams said.

The clinic for donors, volunteers and board members at the hospital had nothing to do with that, she said. The three public clinics are registered separately with the state as vaccine providers and receive their own weekly shipments.

Vaccine appointments are no longer available at Providence’s three clinics. Instead, the Everett hospital is working on outreach to high-risk patients and sending some Providence staff to work at the county’s public drive-thru sites.

On Wednesday, Providence reached out to Inslee’s office to explain what happened and to vow to change the scheduling system.

“We acknowledged our mistake and added that it certainly wasn’t in alignment with our values,” Williams said. “They were appreciative we came forward.”

Going forward, the hospital is turning to its Equity and Social Justice Committee, formed in March, for guidance.

Joey Thompson: 425-339-3449; jthompson@heraldnet.com. Twitter: @byjoeythompson.

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