During the 2020 Annual Meeting of the Vermont Association of Hospitals and Health Systems, “Achieving Health Equity: A VAHHS Virtual Meeting,” VAHHS was proud to welcome Dr. Mark Levine, whom VAHHS CEO Jeff Tieman introduced as Vermont’s Dr. Fauci. Levine, Commissioner of the Vermont Department of Health, discussed the state’s response to COVID and the effect it had on several populations.
He began with a familiar graphic—one most of us remembered from the earliest days after the COVID patient in Vermont—the “flattening the curve” slide.
“This was really about VAHHS,” he noted, pointing out that a surge like the one shown if the curve was not flattened could have overwhelmed the health care system.
“The last thing we wanted for Vermont was for it to look like China, where hospitals were overwhelmed. We were looking at the anxious faces of Italian citizens and doctors. And we would soon see in New York City families devastated by losses and not allowed to see their loved ones as they lay dying. Inpatient care was being delivered in hallways; there was a debilitating lack of personal protective equipment; and refrigeration trucks were compensating for overfilled morgues,” he said.
“Thanks goodness, we—VDH, and you—collaborated and creatively financed our response so that the surge was an outcome that never came to be,” he exclaimed.
He enumerated the hardships hospitals had to endure to create that eventuality, listing sacrifices such as empty hospital beds awaiting COVID patients, teaching hospitals that had to reimagine medical school, rigorous testing protocols and the fear that many health care professionals faced.
“You wondered what would happen to all the other medical problems that weren’t being taken care of because of people choosing to ignore them or consciously delaying seeking attention for them,” he added. “And when re-opening would occur, what if no one came?” he remembered.
“Fortunately, that was a false prophecy,” he noted.
“And thought it wasn’t terrible, the health care workforce did suffer out of proportion to the rest of the population, leading to abundant concerns about staffing,” he stated.