As you review the articles that we have included in the “In the News” section of VAHHS Update this week, you’ll notice a disturbing trend. Our hospital emergency departments (EDs) are stretched to their limits. This reality is not limited to any one hospital and sadly, this is anything but new. Since last year, hospitals have struggled to care for more and sicker patients and they have been doing so during an ongoing pandemic, while managing staffing shortages, and with fewer resources. To say this trend is unsustainable is a massive understatement.
The challenge is multidimensional, but a major factor is the inability of hospitals to place people in the right level of care. Some would be much better treated at mental health facilities, but beds in those facilities are hard to find. Some could get the care they need at long-term care, nursing home or rehab facilities. These facilities, however, don’t have the staffing they need to fill all their beds and provide quality care to complex patients, so hospitals can’t discharge patients there either. The result is full emergency rooms, full inpatient floors, stressed staff and higher health care costs.
Hospitals have been partnering with other health care leaders and state policy makers on
solutions and that work will continue in earnest. In the meantime, we ask that Vermonters take some preventive measures to help us out. Do not put medical conditions off to the point of crisis—try to see your health care provider for early intervention. Get your flu and COVID vaccines. Go to a local urgent care center if your health issue is not an emergency. Of course, in cases where emergency care is warranted, our hospitals are available 24/7/365 to provide you with the care you need. You may experience delays, and you should know that we are just as frustrated as you by that. Thank you for your kindness and patience as we work tirelessly to save lives and take care of our neighbors in the face of incredible difficulties.