Message from the CEO
We Must Remain Optimistic
by Jeff Tieman
VAHHS President and CEO

After living in DC for 15 years, I have many fond memories at the U.S. Capitol. Being in the gallery when the Affordable Care Act passed the House of Representatives. Sitting on a Capitol Hill train with Sen. John McCain. Walking the flower-strewn grounds in springtime.

Last week, those images gave way to TV footage that was so startling I had trouble believing it was real. I texted a friend who works in the Senate and was glad to find him in his home office.

Amid the chaos, our congressman and friend Peter Welch offered a vivid account of the attack. “The doors were literally being battered down,” he said.

Where do we go from here? The only thing I know is to begin with optimism. In health care, we don’t have to look far for reasons to be optimistic. I see them every day:
  • Nurses and pharmacists who are vaccinating health care providers and first responders at clinics where people are excited and hopeful
  • Physicians who lead busy emergency rooms and manage growing COVID caseloads but stay levelheaded and positive
  • Leaders in government and health care who fight hard every day for their constituents, their state, their patients and our collective safety, even when the hours are long and the problems seemingly insurmountable
  • Vermonters who continue to be so thoughtful and patient as part of the nation’s leading COVID response.

As we begin a new legislative session, optimism is especially important. Let’s be optimistic that we can join together as we have since March to:
  • put public health ahead of politics
  • prioritize truth, dialogue and science
  • take the right steps to smartly vaccinate Vermont and get back to normal.

In his State of the State address last week, Gov. Scott said, “I welcome the opening of the legislative session with the same optimism I had as a freshman senator from Washington County nearly two decades ago.”

Even in light of everything he has seen and managed, Gov. Scott expressed
optimism first.

With COVID numbers increasing in the post-holiday timeframe, and our nation still reeling from misinformation and violence, it will be difficult but critical to stay focused. To stay confident. To stay optimistic. And, as always, to stay together.

My colleague Brian Peters, who leads the Michigan Hospital Association, shared this story about optimism that inspired my column this week. Thank you, Brian, for your insightful words.
Jeff Tieman
VAHHS President and CEO
Legislative Update

This January brings us a historic legislative session on many levels. Not only will Montpelier remain quiet (and actually have available parking) as legislators gather virtually, but we start off this biennium with an unprecedented amount of leadership by women. Senate President Pro-Tempore Becca Balint (D–Windham) and House Speaker Jill Krowinski (D–Burlington) have begun their tenures as the legislative leaders of their respective chambers.
On Thursday evening, the Governor delivered his State-of-the-State address, where he indicated some of this priorities for the session. Of note to the health care world, the governor announced his plan to have the Department of Financial Regulation review any potential savings to health insurers during 2020 due to decreased utilization and determine whether an estimated $10 million in premium rebates were possible for policyholders. The governor also continued to support moving away from fee-for-service reimbursement for providers and towards reimbursement based on quality and outcomes. 
Committees met this week briefly for introductions. We have several legislators who are new to the health care committees, indicated by asterisks below:
House Committee on Health Care

Rep. William J. Lippert Jr., Chair 
Rep. Anne B. Donahue, Vice Chair 
Rep. Lori Houghton, Ranking Member 
Rep. Alyssa Black
Rep. Brian Cina
Rep. Mari Cordes
Rep. Leslie Goldman
Rep. Emily Long*
Rep. Woodman Page
Rep. Arthur Peterson
Senate Committee on Health and Welfare

Sen. Virginia "Ginny" Lyons, Chair 
Sen. Ruth Hardy, Vice Chair* 
Sen. Ann Cummings
Sen. Cheryl Hooker
Sen. Joshua Terenzini
Next week, committees will continue to gather and get up to speed with an eye towards educating new committee members and learning the latest on COVID-related issues.

In the News
News from around our 50 states
USA Today

Montpelier: The group representing hospitals across the state says uncertainty about the amount of COVID-19 vaccine they will receive is prompting delays in administering those doses.

In a Wednesday news release, the Vermont Association of Hospitals and Health Systems, which represents the state’s 14 nonprofit hospitals, said hospitals have routinely experienced delays in the arrival of doses. They have also received fewer doses than expected.

Conversely, there have also been cases in which vaccine vials have contained more doses than expected. “We have a population that is eager to be vaccinated, and we’ll need ongoing patience and support to continue making progress,” said association President Jeff Tieman.

Despite the challenges, Vermont Health Commissioner Dr. Mark Levine said the state ranks seventh in the nation for the percentage of doses received that have been administered.
UVM Medical Center fills COVID-19 vaccine trial

The University of Vermont Medical Center says its vaccine trial is now full.

More than 280 volunteers in our region are now enrolled in a phase 3 trial of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine.

Nearly two-thirds of those enrolled are over age 65. Additionally, more than 12% of participants identify as black, indigenous or persons of color.

Cat Viglienzoni spoke with Dr. Beth Kirkpatrick, an infectious disease expert with UVMMC, about why this vaccine, if approved for emergency use, could be a game-changer.

Officials: Vermont ranks 7th in the country for vaccine distribution
Saint Albans Messenger

According to state officials, Vermont is seventh in the nation for prevalence of vaccine distribution. This accomplishment comes despite significant logistical, operational and scheduling challenges hospitals have encountered.

“Vermont has done a great job dealing with a complex process that is rapidly and constantly changing. It has been a challenge, but I’m proud of our team that came together so quickly to be able to tackle this. We’ve now vaccinated well over 1,000 people in just four weeks – that’s remarkable,” said Northwestern Medical Center (NMC) Chief Medical and Quality Officer Dr. John Minadeo.

Vermont Hospitals Overcome Delivery Delays, Reduced Doses and Rank Among Top States for COVID-19 Vaccinations
The Newport Daily Express

The Vermont Association of Hospitals and Health Systems (VAHHS), which represents all of Vermont’s 14 non-profit hospitals, has been working in partnership with the Vermont Department of Health (VDH) and community providers to administer COVID-19 vaccinations to Vermonters identified in the State’s plan as qualifying for the first phase of Vermont’s vaccination effort.

More than 17 million doses have been distributed across the country, with just under 34,000 coming to Vermont so far.

As of January 5, Vermont Hospitals have administered the first doses of the Pfizer and Moderna Vaccines to more than 17,700 Vermonters. This number does not take into account clinics that are scheduled in the coming days, which means the amount of administered and scheduled vaccination is likely much closer to the 34,000 vaccines Vermont received.

According to state officials, Vermont is seventh in the nation for prevalence of vaccine distribution. This accomplishment comes despite significant logistical, operational and scheduling challenges hospitals have encountered.

Doctor warns new COVID strain likely already in Vermont

UVM Medical Center President Dr. Stephen Leffler says Vermonters should expect that the new, more contagious strain of coronavirus is already in the state.

In the city of Burlington’s first press conference of 2021, Leffler told Vermonters not to be surprised if the first case of the new strain is confirmed within the next five to 10 days.
He reassured the public that the new strain is not more deadly but it has the power to infect more people after exposure.

“But the old version, let’s say you would infect only two other people. Chances are both of those people will recover as well. Let’s say the new version, you infected ten other people. One of those people could actually end up dying, right? So that’s the problem,” Leffler said.

The doctor says the UVM Medical Center’s health care team will be vaccinated next week and community vaccination should start in about a month.
He says they’re working with the state to figure out how many doses of the vaccine Vermont will get each week.

Hospitals in the News