From Our Annual Meeting
At our 2020 annual meeting, “Achieving Equity: A VAHHS Virtual Meeting,” Dr. Maria Mercedes Avila kicked off what we hope will be a strong commitment from Vermont’s health care system to remove the health disparities that exist here in the second whitest state in the U.S.

Avila described the term disparities as conditions that are “unnecessary and avoidable, unfair and unjust.”

She also offered a definition of “health equity”—when everyone has a fair and just opportunity to be as healthy as possible.

She stressed that disparities are preventable if we do the hard work to ensure certain behaviors don’t take place and that we address and eliminate inequality. Yet, as she led health equity workshops across the US with almost 10,000 providers, she reports that 36.2 percent of them said they previously had little or no training in how to do so.

“We have to have ongoing training,” she offered. “And it has to happen within the workforce.

“Health disparities disproportionately affect groups historically disadvantaged in our society,” she noted. “Most providers [surveyed in workshops] didn’t understand the connection between racial disparities and health disparities. We need to understand the root cause of racial disparities and inequties in our society to understand why we have racial disparities in health today. We all need to know the history of where racial disparities came from,” she explained, adding that her trainings often begin with a history lesson.

She said a great majority of providers attribute disparities in health outcomes to patients’ behaviors instead of providers’ behaviors. Some even question the legitimacy of health disparities. This is all, she stated, part of systemic racism.

“There’s an urgent need to address disparity because it’s a moral wrong,” she noted.

In the News
Care Board amends hospital budgets after UVM Health Network appeal

The Green Mountain Care Board amended hospital budgets Tuesday, ceding to the demands outlined in a scathing appeal letter from UVM Health Network CEO John Brumsted.

But it may not have been Brumsted that persuaded regulators. Instead, hospital officials raised concerns that the board’s original decision could put hospitals’ federal aid money at risk.

“We can’t really take any chances,” said chair Kevin Mullin in an interview.

Last week, the federal Health Resources & Services Administration issued guidance that suggested that hospitals’ aid money could be endangered if hospitals got other Covid funds.

That 2021 Covid rate could be construed as reason for the federal government to clawback funds, hospital officials argued in the special board meeting.
Regulator says no to Porter budget
Addison Independent

 In a move that could have dire long-term consequences for Addison County’s nursing home, the Green Mountain Care Board (GMBC) on Tuesday rejected Porter Hospital’s request for a 5.75% increase in its commercial rate as part of its fiscal year 2021 budget, instead determining the hospital should make do with a 4% hike.

The board had been asked on Tuesday to reconsider its prior rejection of Porter’s proposed rate hike. The GMCB did however give Porter a little good news. The panel had originally ruled that 1% of the 4% increase for Porter should be tied to the COVID pandemic, which hospital leaders argued made the funding tenuous.

The board has now decided to remove COVID conditions for that 1%.
NCHC and NVRH form Northern Express Care
Vermont Business Magazine

Northern Counties Health Care (NCHC) and Northeastern Vermont Regional Hospital (NVRH) are pleased to announce the creation of a new partnership, Northern Express Care – St. Johnsbury.

Northern Express Care will be a walk-in health center open to anyone who requires convenient primary care services. Located at the corner of Railroad Street and Eastern Avenue in downtown St. Johnsbury, Northern Express Care will offer evening and weekend hours, no appointment necessary, to provide community members with the care they need, when they need it.

“We are thrilled to be able to work with Northeastern Vermont Regional Hospital, our partner and neighbor, to be able to expand access to health care services, decrease wait times, and provide compassionate care to those who need it,” said Christopher Towne, Chief Strategy Officer for Northern Counties. “Renovations to our location in downtown St. Johnsbury begin today, and we look forward to offering care at Northern Express Care this coming winter.”

“Northeastern Vermont Regional Hospital is proud to collaborate on this new opportunity to provide comprehensive care to anyone in the community,” said NVRH Chief Executive Officer Shawn Tester. “While both organizations offer primary care services, this project aims to help reduce unnecessary emergency department visits and encourage more people in the community to seek the care they need.”

Northern Express Care will provide a convenient way for individuals seeking assistance with minor illnesses or injuries the same comprehensive and compassionate care that one would normally receive at their primary care provider’s office.

Reorganization plans filed for SMCS and Springfield Hospital
Vermont Business Magazine

According to a BLOG post by Springfield Medical Care Systems Acting CEO Joshua Dufresne and Springfield Hospital Interim CEO Michael Halstead, Springfield Medical Care Systems and Springfield Hospital filed a reorganization plan under Chapter 11 of the US Bankruptcy code with the US Bankruptcy Court District of Vermont on Friday, September 18, 2020.

The Company commenced voluntary restructuring under Chapter 11 of the US Bankruptcy code on June 26, 2019. This filing provided immediate protection and allowed the Company to continue its healthcare operations as it developed a plan of reorganization.

The two organizations, Springfield Medical Care Systems and Springfield Hospital, propose restructuring as independent operating companies. This restructuring is a necessary and positive step forward for both organizations, and both Boards of Directors have made great efforts throughout this process.

As we began the reorganization process, ensuring local access to healthcare services for the region that has counted on us for care for more than 100 years was paramount. Our plans meet two essential objectives in that they provide debt restructuring and ensure ongoing operations and local access to care.

Over the past 18 months, we have reimagined service offerings and worked to balance expenses with revenues and stabilize operations.

While COVID-19 certainly challenged us and delayed our efforts, we remained focused and developed a plan that we believe creditors will support to advance the confirmation process. We greatly appreciate the support of the State of Vermont, our vendors and community members.

New president at Porter Medical Center

Tom Thompson, who has been serving as the interim president and chief operating officer of UVM Health Network Porter Medical Center since last February, has been selected as the permanent President/COO of Middlebury's Porter by the UVMHN and Porter boards.

Thompson joined Porter last winter to help lead the organization through the implementation of the next phase of the Epic Electronic Health Record system and develop a three-year strategic plan for the organization. Soon after his arrival, the COVID-19 pandemic emerged and became an unanticipated and primary organizational focus.

According to Porter Medical Center Board Chair Sivan Cotel, even as the Epic and strategic planning processes moved forward, Thompson successfully helped lead the organization in its planning and preparations for the COVID-19 pandemic.

Northwestern Medical Center announces new CEO
Saint Albans Messenger

Northwestern Medical Center (NMC) has hired a new chief executive officer (CEO), the hospital announced Thursday.

According to an NMC statement, the hospital’s governing board recently agreed to hire Dr. Dean French, the current head of a hospital in Missoula, Mont., to take over as NMC’s new permanent CEO starting at the end of November.

In a statement, the chair of NMC’s board of directors, Janet McCarthy, said French’s “expertise and experience was very evident during our selection process.”

“Dr. French’s perspectives and desire to serve in a rural community such as ours will help NMC provide the best health care possible to our community,” McCarthy said.

New $5.4 million NIH grant funds UVM Center for Biomedical Shared Resources
Vermont Business Magazine

A new $5.47 million grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to the University of Vermont Larner College of Medicine will fund the creation of the UVM Center for Biomedical Shared Resources. Larner Senior Associate Dean for Research Gordon L Jensen, MD, PhD, is principal investigator on the grant.

The new Center will integrate five of the leading UVM laboratory-based, shared resource core facilities, including the Vermont Integrative Genomics Resource, the Vermont Biomedical Research Network (formerly the Vermont Genetics Network), the Flow Cytometry and Cell Sorting Facility, the Microscopy Imaging Center, and the Mass Spectrometry Facility. In fulfillment of UVM's land grant mission to be a resource for its community, the new center will provide services to institutions across northern New England, and support large, regional research programs. The grant will enhance long-term sustainability through efficiencies of scale, improved access, cross training of personnel, and sharing of resources.

“Our shared resource cores provide state-of-the-art research equipment and methods to UVM investigators and trainees,” said Jensen. “The funding of this Center will support continued growth in biomedical research spanning our institution and region for years to come.”

Rutland Regional announces Housing for Health campaign
Vermont Business Magazine

Rutland Regional Medical Center today announced its Housing for Health fundraising campaign in partnership with the Rutland Housing Authority, and its non-profit affiliate, Housing Initiatives Inc., to raise $150,000 to establish safe, secure and supportive transitional housing in our local region by year-end.

Specifically, funds raised will support multifamily bridge housing units at 101 Woodstock Avenue in Rutland to transition individuals and families out of homelessness and, eventually, into permanent housing.

The new site will provide nine transitional housing units including one unit for an on-site resident manager to help maintain day-to-day supports and connections to needed health and human services within the community. In addition to Rutland Regional Medical Center, the Homeless Prevention Center, Rutland Mental Health Services, and BROC Community Action have all agreed to partner on this critical project.

Rutland Regional is committed to helping develop these much-needed housing options for residents of Rutland County who may face discharge barriers due to lack of safe housing, or a living environment where they can heal.

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