The Bulletin Board

Health care providers slam Executive Council for rejecting $27 million for vaccination efforts

By: - October 25, 2021 1:21 pm
A person gets a vaccine

New Hampshire is the only state to reject the funding, according to the state’s federal delegation. (Getty Images)

Health care providers joined the chorus Monday condemning the Executive Council’s Republicans for rejecting $27 million in vaccine outreach. The providers pointed to a rise in cases among children and an understaffed health care network unprepared to deliver COVID-19 and flu vaccines, as well as booster shots, while also handling non-pandemic care like pregnancies and heart attacks.

New Hampshire is the only state to reject the funding, according to the state’s federal delegation.

“They are already financially strained and overworked,” said James Potter, executive vice president of the New Hampshire Medical Society. “These practices desperately need the funds. You’re going to have parents who will be delayed months in getting their kids vaccinated. This is not so much about the rights of some individuals; it’s essentially denying access to care for the majority of parents and children who want to get the vaccine.”

On Wednesday, the Department of Health and Human Services will ask councilors to approve $4.7 million in alternative funding to do a fraction of the work envisioned in the original contracts, mostly providing vaccines to children. The Joint Legislative Fiscal Committee, which had tabled the $27 million contracts, voted unanimously on Friday to support the $4.7 million request.

Potter and other health care leaders sounded the alarm during a press conference Monday organized by Sens. Jeanne Shaheen and Maggie Hassan in response to the council’s recent rejection of two federal grants that would have helped the state handle what’s expected to be a surge in demand for the vaccine once it’s approved for children ages 5-11. That approval is expected by early November.

Asked if the delegation was working to find nearly $22 million still unfunded, Shaheen offered her most forceful remarks.

“We’ve already talked to the CDC and we’re talking to the various federal agencies, but the reality is we’ve done our job,” Shaheen said. “The federal delegation got the money that the state of New Hampshire said it needed. And when the federal government wasn’t forthcoming with what the state said it needed, we went back and we got those additional funds. Now it’s time for the governor and the Republican executive councilors to do their jobs.”

Potter said children under 18 make up about 30 percent of new COVID-19 cases, which are averaging about 500 a day in New Hampshire, according to the state’s vaccination dashboard

Don Caruso, CEO and president of Cheshire Medical Center/Dartmouth-Hitchcock Keene, said hospital leaders in some parts of the state are meeting daily, sometimes twice a day, to find other locations in the state with available intensive care beds because people are extremely sick. 

“A lot of the different regions have actually cut back their elective care to accommodate,” Caruso said. “The hospitals are using every tool that they have to manage this.” 

He said expanding the number of vaccinated Granite Staters with the support of the $27 million was the tool they needed most. “In my mind, what the Executive Council did was a travesty,” he said.

Caruso also spoke of the “moral injury” the council’s vote caused to overburdened health care providers. 

“One of the things the Executive Council did was add insult to that moral injury,” he said. “It was an emotional gut punch really to see the action of the Executive Council last week.”

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Annmarie Timmins
Annmarie Timmins

Senior reporter Annmarie Timmins is a New Hampshire native who covered state government, courts, and social justice issues for the Concord Monitor for 25 years. During her time with the Monitor, she won a Nieman Fellowship to study journalism and mental health courts at Harvard for a year. She has taught journalism at the University of New Hampshire and writing at the Nackey S. Loeb School of Communications.