Good Samaritan Hospital in San Jose said reports that it fired a top executive in its COVID-19 vaccine skip-the-line scandal are false and that he is still on the job.
As first reported by San José Spotlight last week, at the behest of the hospital’s chief operating officer, Gary Purushotham, Los Gatos teachers and staff were encouraged to register for a COVID-19 vaccine at Good Samaritan even though they were not eligible under state guidelines. They were told to register as health care workers to skip the line.
The Mercury News reported Jan. 26 sources familiar with the hospital divulged Purushotham had been fired. Sarah Sherwood, a spokeswoman for Good Samaritan Hospital, told the San Francisco Chronicle and the Mercury News that Purushotham was receiving “disciplinary action.” However, she did not immediately respond to San José Spotlight’s request to verify the reports.
Now, hospital leadership is saying the reports were wrong.
“To clarify, no disciplinary action has been taken towards any member of our team related to this incident,” said Good Samaritan CEO Joe DeSchryver. “As a learning organization, we will use the insights from this entire process to further strengthen our commitment to our mission.”
The controversy exploded when this news organization obtained an email from Los Gatos Union School District Superintendent Paul Johnson to teachers and staff stating they should register has health care workers to receive the vaccine.
“The COO of the hospital says we can access the appointments through here and has cleared LGUSD staff to sign up under the healthcare buttons,” Johnson wrote. “This is a wonderful gesture by our Good Sam neighbors and I encourage you to take advantage of this within the next few hours.”
The county’s COVID-19 Testing Officer, Dr. Marty Fenstersheib, sent a letter to the hospital Jan. 22 calling its actions “problematic for multiple reasons.” He also wrote the county wouldn’t give Good Samaritan any more vaccine doses until it could provide a plan and proof the hospital would follow state and county guidelines in the future.
“While vaccine storage limitations and fluctuating availability have been a challenge, we want to reassure our community we have had only positive intentions throughout the vaccination process,” DeSchryver said. “We regret the mistake we made in our efforts to use all vaccines prior to expiration.”
DeSchryver said the hospital was conducting an internal review and taking steps to “help restore public trust about our vaccine administration process.”
“We have cancelled appointments for any and all non-Tier 1a community members,” DeSchryver said. He also said the hospital will submit a plan by the end of the week to the county to show that it will comply with state and county vaccine distribution rules.
On Jan. 25, the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office said it was investigating the matter. County Counsel James Williams also confirmed there could be legal implications since the teachers and staff who received the vaccine had to attest under penalty of perjury that they are health care workers.
According to the hospital website, Purushotham joined the hospital in June 2019. Before that, he served as both chief operating officer as well as the ethics and compliance officer for Del Sol Medical Center in El Paso, Texas.