Los Gatos: Emails link teacher vaccines to meal donations for hospital staff

The Los Gatos Union School District has insisted for weeks that its teachers did not get special access to the coronavirus vaccine at Good Samaritan Hospital because the district helped raise money to feed health care workers at the San Jose medical center.

But internal district emails obtained by the Bay Area News Group through a public records request suggest that is, in fact, what happened. And the emails also show that a doctor at the hospital whose relative works at the district helped facilitate the unusual arrangement.

The fallout led Santa Clara County to withhold vaccine from the hospital, and Good Samaritan, which said it was investigating the situation, ultimately shuttered its vaccine clinic.

In January, a month before Santa Clara County said it would begin inoculating teachers, Good Samaritan invited Los Gatos teachers to get vaccinated at the hospital, telling them to register for an appointment as a health care worker. With vaccine supply scarce and many eligible elderly residents still struggling to get a shot, the move sparked immediate outrage and accusations that the district had gotten unfair treatment in part because of its Feed Our Heroes campaign, a program that helped send meals last spring to health care workers at Good Samaritan.

In an email to the school district’s staff, Superintendent Paul Johnson had mentioned the program, saying the hospital had “not forgotten” the district’s kindness. Later, he walked that statement back, saying in a note to parents that “any characterization I may have made about Good Samaritan returning a good deed was my own personal interpretation.”

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Except, emails indicate otherwise.

In a note sent around 8 p.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 20, anesthesiologist Richard Briones wrote to Johnson: “I received a call this evening from Gary Purushotham, COO at Good Samaritan Hospital. As you may recall he worked with us on the Feed our Heroes project. Recognizing the effort put forth by the local schools to support Good Sam’s frontline workers, Good Sam would like to now help our frontline teachers by offering COVID vaccines to the District as soon as possible…This is a wonderful example of how giving begets giving and how good deeds don’t go unnoticed or are under appreciated.”

A profile on Good Samaritan’s website lists Briones as an anesthesiologist affiliated with the hospital. Public records also indicate he is related to and shares an address with Karen Briones, the communications coordinator for the school district.

Johnson said in an email Tuesday morning he was unavailable for an interview, sending a link to an earlier January statement that said the district was told Good Samaritan had received authorization to expand vaccines to teachers and accused the media of misrepresenting the story.

Karen and Richard Briones did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The following morning, Thursday, Richard Briones sent an email to Johnson with a link to schedule vaccinations, saying, “While it indicates it is for health providers he told me your staff should be able to use it as well.”

He then sent a group …read more

Source:: The Mercury News – Entertainment


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