Message from the Interim CEO
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.
In the News
A rise in patients awaiting long-term care beds is crowding Vermont’s ERs

On Friday, the University of Vermont Medical Center in Burlington issued a warning to Vermonters: Don’t visit our emergency department if you can avoid it.

Instead, it advised people with relatively minor issues to seek treatment at doctor’s offices or urgent care centers rather than visit the hospital’s overcrowded emergency room.

Stephen Leffler, president of the medical center, said the overcrowding was caused by a “perfect storm” of several health care trends condensed into a single day: More than 100 patients sought care on Friday, but the facility had only 53 staffed beds.

“​​It's back to normal-busy now and we're managing OK, but Friday was particularly stressful and difficult,” he said on Tuesday.
Shortage of workers at step-down facilities lead to UVM ER crisis

The emergency department at the UVM Medical Center is on the brink of being overwhelmed, with patients sometimes waiting hours and people who need to be moved out of the ER with no place to go.

Since Friday, The hospital has asked people with non-emergencies medical issues to seek care elsewhere. Upwards of 100 patients swamped the ER late last week in a facility that has only 53 beds.

“We are really doing everything in our power to make sure that we can see everybody who urgently needs us. I want to make sure people know that we can see you if you have an emergency problem -- we will make space for you no matter what. But for those minor things where you’re sure it’s minor, if there are other things you can do, that would be helpful for your friends and neighbors who are having emergencies tonight,” said UVMMC president Dr. Stephen Leffler.
Area hospitals struggling amid emergency room bed shortage

The University of Vermont Medical Center is asking patients with non-emergent medical needs to seek treatment at its urgent care clinic in Colchester as the hospital struggles with a lack of patient beds.

UVM Medical Center staff sent out an announcement on Friday to try to stem the number of patients visiting the emergency department as the hospital dealt with unusually-high patient volumes.

Officials said they are experiencing similar hospital bed shortages as many other area health facilities in Vermont, New Hampshire and northern New York.

UVM Medical Center currently has 499 patient beds. The center serves approximately 1 million residents in Vermont and northern New York, according to hospital officials.
Vt. COVID hospitalizations, deaths on the increase

Vermont health officials are reporting an uptick in COVID cases heading into the Halloween and holiday season.

After “low” statewide community levels reported since this spring, the state Wednesday increased the level to “medium.” New COVID hospital admissions this week are above 10 per 100,000 Vermonters per day according to the latest surveillance update. State officials say the rate of cases and percent of hospital beds occupied by COVID cases still remain in the “low” range.

According to data, there were 66 cases reported hospitalized as of Wednesday with six in the ICU.

The number of deaths is also on the increase, with at least 13 in the last two weeks. It brings the total since the start of the pandemic to 732.
US braces for flu season, more COVID variants
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