Does the name Jeffrey Zients mean anything to you? It should, and it would if the corporate media was doing an even half-assed job covering the Biden Administration’s response to the pandemic. Zients is ultimately responsible for the misguided and politically motivated Biden Administration’s vaccine announcement that undermined trust and confidence in its management of the pandemic. Zients also bears some responsibility for choosing the failed military leadership who botched America’s withdrawal from Afghanistan.
Zients, 54, is one of President Biden’s most trusted advisors, and he was a close adviser of President Obama’s as well. Zients co-chaired Biden’s transition team, meaning he was involved in the selection of critical State and Defense Department appointees. After Biden assumed office, Zients was named to oversee the Administration’s Covid response.
By any measure, Zients’ pandemic oversight has been an abysmal failure, which is hardly a surprise because he isn’t remotely qualified for the job. His only healthcare industry expertise is how to make obscene profits from it. He doesn’t even have a science degree.
The White House announced last week that it plans to make booster vaccines available next month, pending FDA approval. While there is compelling scientific evidence to support getting multiple doses of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines and a single dose of the J&J, many doctors warn that getting booster shots is premature and possibly harmful. The FDA has shamefully leaked to the media it plans to officially approve Pfizer’s vaccine possibly as early as tomorrow, and the public will mistakenly conclude that booster shots have also been approved.
In rolling out the Covid vaccines, the Biden Administration did an atrocious job managing public expectations, which fostered considerable confusion, anger, and growing divisiveness. Americans were led to believe the Covid vaccines were a cure-all for the pandemic, and when they didn’t perform quite as expected, Biden and the corporate media blamed the unvaccinated for the disease’s persistence.
According to Marty Makary, a professor at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and Bloomberg School of Public Health, “those who are unvaccinated pose no risk to the vaccinated beyond that of a common cold,” yet many Americans persist in villainizing the unvaccinated and want them ostracized from society. As for fears about vaccine risks being unfounded, the Canadian government announced last week it will cover the cost of funerals for those who die from federally approved vaccines. That’s hardly a reassuring incentive.
The Biden Administration also has announced plans to require all nursing home employees to be vaccinated, and that facilities that don’t comply could face fines or lose Medicare reimbursement, which many rely on to keep their doors open. The misguidedness of this policy can’t be overstated, nor can the hypocrisy of it.
About 40 percent of nursing home staff are unvaccinated. There are multiple reasons for the resistance. The majority of nursing home caregivers are Blacks and immigrants, many of whom are instinctively distrustful of vaccine safety. They also are distrustful of their employers because they are badly treated and paid very poorly. Many live hand to mouth, and they fear a potential vaccine reaction could render them unable to work and care for their families.
Nursing homes already face chronic staffing shortages, which imperil the safety of its residents. The Biden Administration is counting on the hospital industry to mandate vaccinations for its staff, thereby limiting alternative healthcare employment opportunities. Notably three of America’s top ranked hospitals – Cleveland Clinic, Pittsburgh’s UPMC, and Chicago’s Northwestern Medicine – have so far avoided draconian vaccine mandates, suggesting the nation’s best and most competent healthcare talents have concerns about imposing their will upon their staffs. It’s a wonder how corporate CEOs can in good conscience impose vaccines on their staffs when Cleveland Clinic’s CEO, a world-renowned surgeon and a highly regarded hospital executive, so far has resisted considerable political and media pressure to do the same.
There were reports on LinkedIn last week that vaccine mandates were responsible for a shortage of nurses in Houston and the Napa region in Northern California. Given that the nursing home industry was chronically short staffed before the pandemic, gambling that the shortage won’t be exacerbated by bullying 40 percent of the staff into getting vaccinated is ill advised. A statement issued by the Pennsylvania Health Care Association was typical of those issued by other trade nursing home trade groups.
“The vaccine mandate proposed today by President Biden – and the threat of withholding federal dollars for an essential industry already on the brink of collapse – has the potential to exacerbate an existing workforce crisis and jeopardize access to care for tens of thousands of vulnerable residents throughout Pennsylvania. Providers are already being forced to limit new admissions,” said PHCA president and CEO Zach Shamberg. “That, too, should be a concerning trend.”
Believing that the Biden Administration is genuinely concerned about nursing care residents requires a significant leap of faith. The U.S. nursing home industry increasingly is being dominated by ethically challenged private equity firms. A landmark study by the National Bureau of Economic Research this year found that after being acquired by a private equity firm, a nursing home’s interest expenses nearly quadrupled, its rent almost doubled, and the mortality rate for patients increased by 10 percent against the overall average.
Let me put that in stark terms. When private equity gets its greedy hands on a nursing home, more people die. If the Biden Administration wants to protect nursing home patients, it should initiate emergency legislation banning private equity from the nursing home industry, and for that matter, for any involvement in healthcare.
Zients, who in 2002 was ranked 25 on Fortune’s list of 40 richest Americans under age 40, knows the private equity model quite well, as do Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin.
Zients achieved his wealth running various healthcare consulting firms and taking two companies public. After leaving the Obama Administration, Zients found his way to a UK-based holding company called The Cranemere Group, with offices in New York and Washington, where he served as CEO.
Under Zients’ leadership, Cranemere acquired a controversial outsourcing company called NorthStar Anesthesia. I know Texas-based NorthStar well because it figured heavily into the implosion of Beaumont Health, whose flagship Royal Oak hospital in suburban Detroit was once highly regarded as one of the top 50 in the country. I’ve extensively covered Beaumont’s implosion for Deadline Detroit.
NorthStar’s model is to rely more heavily on lower cost nurse anesthetists than anesthesiologists, which brings down costs. Randall Moore II, NorthStar’s chief anesthetist officer, is the former CEO of the American Association of Nurse Anesthetists. When Cranemere acquired NorthStar, the company was engaged in so-called surprise billing practices whereby patients were invoiced for anesthesiology services for which they mistakenly believed were covered by insurance. NorthStar stopped surprise billing after it became increasingly politically controversial. On an anesthesiology industry message board and elsewhere, NorthStar is pejoratively referred to as “Death Star.”
When Beaumont announced that it planned to outsource its anesthesia services at its flagship and other hospitals last May, about half the anesthesiologists at Royal Oak, most of them fellowship trained, resigned rather than accept lucrative bonus offers to join NorthStar. The co-heads of Beaumont’s cardiology department sent a warning to Beaumont’s chair that they had “serious concerns” about NorthStar’s capabilities.
Within three weeks of NorthStar taking over at Royal Oak, a patient undergoing a routine colonoscopy died from intubation complications. The nurse anesthetist, and the anesthesiologist overseeing her, were brought in by NorthStar from other hospitals. Another Beaumont patient landed in the ICU because of a pain medication overdose. Nurse anesthetists from Beaumont who agreed to join NorthStar earlier this year voted overwhelmingly to unionize, citing “unsafe” staffing among their primary issues. Notably, NorthStar hired a union busting firm to derail the organization; Biden has stated that organizing is an inalienable right of every American worker.
Zients is reportedly known for his troubleshooter managerial skills. Among his claims to fame in the Obama Administration was turning around healthcare.gov. But there is little, if anything, in Zients’ background that qualifies him to manage a pandemic, except perhaps his deft political skills and the adoration the corporate media clearly has for him. A fawning 2013 USA Today profile of Zients included a quote from his mother. The Washington Post’s editorial board also is quite fond of him.
One need only look at Israel’s Covid czar to appreciate Zients’ poor qualifications to oversee America’s Covid response. His name is Salman Zarka, a major-general in the IDF reserves and a former director of the Ziv Medical Center in the northern city of Safed. Zarka’s military career included stints as Commander of the IDF Center for Medical Services and head of the health department in the Medical Corps. Zarka was also responsible for setting up and overseeing an IDF field hospital on the Israeli-Syrian border that treated Syrians wounded in their country’s civil war.
Zarka holds a master’s degree in epidemiology and public health from the prestigious Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Zients’ educational background: He holds a political science degree from Duke University.
A recent survey revealed that Americans have little trust in the FDA, the CDC, and the National Institutes of Health. The FDA leaking that it plans to approve Pfizer’s Covid vaccines possibly as early as tomorrow underscores the agency’s communications incompetence. According to (naturally) anonymous sources who blabbed to the New York Times, unidentified regulators were wading through a “a substantial amount” of paperwork and negotiation with Pfizer on Friday in the hope of getting an announcement ready on Monday.
According to the Times, the original FDA timeframe was to approve the Pfizer vaccine by Labor Day. It hardly fosters confidence that an increasingly controversial vaccine got approved on a rushed timetable. Little wonder that 30 percent of the American public fears the Covid vaccine.
The Biden Administration and the corporate media blame the distrust on Trump supporters and the spreading of disinformation about the vaccine. I blame Jeff Zients and his team for their inept leadership and their inability to mount a compelling counter campaign, despite having the extensive resources of the U.S. government and an obsequious media behind them.
The horrific leaders to remain key government positions. If America has any hope of beating the pandemic, Jeffrey Zients must be immediately replaced.
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