James M. Berklan

My sister has done plenty of things that have made me scratch my head, but willingly offering herself up for ridicule on the “Oprah” show has to be near the top of the list.

The program’s topic was people with bad shopping habits. Some experts talked about the issue as pseudo-science and then Oprah wandered into her audience to hear some real-life examples.

My sister, Lynn, had made the short drive to the Chicago TV studio simply as a lucky ticket holder, unaware of what the day’s topic would be. While waiting in line to get in, she volunteered to be to be called on, if needed, at the end.

“I just like to buy things and then never use them,” she eventually confessed to the queen of daytime TV while turning beet red.

“Girl, you’ve got a problem,” Oprah retorted before spinning on to the next big spender.

With that in mind, I have a message for the Department of Health and Human Services: “Boy, do you have a problem.”

The Office of Inspector General released a sweeping report Thursday, “COVID-19: Sustained Federal Action Is Crucial as Pandemic Enters Its Second Year.” It found, in part, that while HHS is generously supplying, three free on-site COVID-19 vaccination clinics to long-term care facilities, it is apparently not planning to report on the results of such largesse. 

HHS currently “does not report data showing vaccination rates specifically for nursing homes and does not collect or report data for nursing homes not participating in the program,” report authors noted. 

When it comes to poor investment practices, this goes way past paying for your annual gym membership and not going. And far beyond the poor accounting for those government surplus-cheese giveaways of years gone by. We’re talking about life-saving vaccines, and there’s no transparency as to who’s taking advantage of them and who’s not, nor to what extent?

Sorry, providers, but even if it means a little extra reporting, and possibly some squirming if more of your staff still isn’t agreeing to get the shots, this information should be duly noted. And if you’re not taking part in the federal program and getting vaccines another way, then simply point that out.

The OIG report recommended that HHS collect nursing home vaccination rate data and make it publicly available. In a head-scratcher, HHS — the parent agency of the OIG, remember — ”neither agreed nor disagreed with this recommendation.”

Granted, some providers may be hampered with many staff members staunchly against getting vaccinated, for whatever reason. But just like with flu seasons past, there are either allowable exceptions for some of those abstaining healthcare workers, or they should be compelled to wear a mask at work if they choose to go unvaccinated. There is precedent for this infection-control step.

The other thing OIG investigators recommended regarding nursing home operators? That the department require providers offer COVID-19 vaccinations to residents and staff as they have with other vaccines and also put associated quality measures into place. 

These steps hadn’t been done as of January but let’s hope it’s just a matter of time. This COVID-19 stuff seems to be fairly important. At least as far as the families of the 180,000-plus former nursing home residents and workers who died from it, and the hundreds of thousands who were infected and/or quarantined because of it, are concerned.

Yet again for this recommendation, “HHS neither agreed nor disagreed with this recommendation.”

Talk about your bad daytime TV plots.

Follow Executive Editor James M. Berklan @JimBerklan.