From Our Annual Meeting
Addressing Vermont’s Health Care Labor Force Challenge

Watch a  video  of this presentation.

At this year’s VAHHS Annual Meeting, Mathew Barewicz, chief of the Vermont Department of Labor’s Economic & Labor Market Information Division, and his colleague Sarah Buxton, state director of workforce development. gave a break-out session addressing Vermont’s health care labor force challenge.
He defined labor market areas—as defined by the federal government—as where people work, live, and shop. He said the Burlington/South Burlington labor area goes up to Swanton, includes five towns in Addison County and covers most of the islands.
“A third of the population of Vermont is contained by it and it creates about 40 percent of the jobs,’ he said.
He noted that Vermont has the lowest unemployment rate in the country and that the Burlington labor market is also the lowest. We also have the lowest unemployment rate in Vermont’s history.
While the US economy and the Burlington labor market economy have been growing since the 2007 recession, the rest of the state has not seen such growth. That could be because employers are unable to find the talent they need to fill current job openings.

In the News
Mt. Ascutney Hospital and Health Center hosts ribbon cutting of private nursing suite for mothers and babies
Vermont Business Magazine

Mt. Ascutney Hospital and Health Center (MAHHC) recently held a public ribbon-cutting ceremony to launch its new private nursing suite designed for breastfeeding or pumping by nursing mothers. The event, held in the Primary Care Clinic off the Main Lobby of Mt. Ascutney Hospital, introduced the Hospital staff and general public to the lactation pod, constructed by leading nursing suite manufacturer Mamava of Burlington, VT. The brightly decorated nursing suite provides a comfortable, friendly, private space for mothers and babies, with occupancy-activated lighting, two benches, a fold-down table, power outlet and USB port, plus ceiling vents and an exhaust fan for comfort.

The ribbon cutting ceremony was introduced by Mt. Ascutney Hospital’s Chief Operating Officer, Paul Calandrella, who welcomed attendees and thanked the Mt. Ascutney Hospital Auxiliary and the Medical Staff group for the necessary funding to purchase the unit. Calandrella noted, “This nursing suite is operational today due to the combined efforts of many people, from our Medical Staff contribution to our allies in the Auxiliary who helped raise the capital to make the purchase possible. Thanks also to our Wellness and Facilities team and other folks around the Hospital who teamed up to make this available.”

Vermonters set new record on Prescription Drug Take Back Day
Vermont Business Magazine

Vermonters set a record on the 18th nationwide Prescription Drug Take Back Day this past Saturday, turning in more than 3.5 tons of unused, unwanted and expired medication at over 60 collection sites throughout the state. The 6,734 pounds of collected medication marks the highest total in Vermont of the eight Take Back Days since fall 2015 and it was the first year that e‐cigarette and other vaping devices could also be turned in.

“We know the availability of unused prescriptions in the medicine cabinets of friends or relatives can lead to substance misuse for some Vermonters,” said Governor Phil Scott. “One of the keys to prevention is taking unused drugs out of the equation, and I’m grateful to all the Vermonters who continue to assist in this effort.”

Take Back Day is organized in partnership with the Vermont Health Department, the Department of Public Safety, local and state law enforcement agencies and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). The goal is to help ensure prescription drugs that are no longer needed are discarded safely before they can be misused. Communities across the state hosted collection sites where Vermonters could safely and anonymously drop off unused medications. Locations were staffed by local and state police and county sheriff departments, and the collected medications were securely transported out of state and incinerated.

Barre up for 'Working Communities' challenge
Times Argus

With the City Council’s blessing, a broad-based coalition of community partners is hoping to leverage more than $300,000 in out-of-state money to advance its evolving vision of a better Barre.

Recently identified by Reader’s Digest as “the nicest place in Vermont,” there is still work to do in the Granite City, and the diverse group is eager to participate in the “Working Communities Challenge” that was launched in the lobby of the Barre Opera House last May.

The local team, led by Bonnie Waninger, executive director of the Central Vermont Regional Planning Commission, pitched its plan to a supportive City Council on Tuesday night and will participate in a statewide competition that officially starts today.

Loss of 24-hour 211 service an ‘emerging crisis,’ advocates caution
VT Digger

Advocates are raising concerns about an “emerging crisis” after a hotline that connects callers with emergency housing and other human services sharply curtailed its hours earlier this month.

The 211 call system, run by the United Ways of Vermont, recently ended its 24/7 coverage because of a rise in the cost of nights and weekend services, United Ways of Vermont Executive Director MaryEllen Mendl told the Advisory Council on Child Poverty and Strengthening Families Thursday. As of Oct. 1, the hotline only receives calls Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. 

For after-hours calls, United Ways of Vermont had previously outsourced calls to a contractor service for about $40,000 a year. Now, Mendl said, the lowest bid United Ways of Vermont could get for after-hours coverage is $286,000.

The restricted service is causing problems, Mendl said, because most of the 211 calls come in after business hours. She said she is primarily concerned about people seeking services like emergency housing when inclement weather hits or when fleeing from domestic violence.

Regional Hospitals Explore Telehealth Options To Improve Health Care Access

Vermonters who took part in the new VPR-Vermont PBS Rural Life Survey said that traveling distance was one reason why they had trouble getting the health care they needed. Some health experts say telehealth services could be one way to better serve people in rural areas that need health care.

Telehealth services have been expanding and improving nationwide. They range from low-tech and relatively inexpensive services like tele-pharmacies, where a pharmacist who is offsite can prescribe medicine, to the more expensive tele-intensive care units and tele-neurology, where a specialist in one hospital can aid a stroke patient at a second location.

"I think telehealth is a really important component for rural hospitals," said Devon Green, vice president of government relations with the Vermont Association of Hospitals and Health Systems.

The recent Vermont Rural Life Survey found that 11% of respondents said they did not get health care when they needed it within the past few years. That particular group was then asked follow-up questions as to why they had trouble getting that health care; the travel involved was a reason for about a third of those respondents.

Officials warn against health care sharing plans ahead of open enrollment
VT Digger

State officials are warning Vermonters to steer clear of health care sharing arrangements, following a cease and desist order against four entities alleged to have marketed the unlicensed insurance in the state earlier this year.

The Department of Financial Regulation and the Attorney General’s Office say it’s important for the public to be wary of these products that promise considerably lower costs, especially with open enrollment starting on Nov. 1 and lasting through Dec. 15.

“While the cost of health care is a huge concern, there is no value to the consumer in these illegal arrangements and could only make the challenge of health care coverage worse if the entity or individual is not required to cover any potential costs,” Gov. Phil Scott said in a statement.

The July 31 cease and desist order was put out against four companies alleged to have been offering the lower-cost insurance alternatives in Vermont: the Vermont Alliance for Health Care Alternatives; the group’s national organization, Small Association Leadership Alliance; the National Association of Senior Move Managers; and Sedera Health Inc.

Peter Shumlin turns hard-knock lessons into Harvard course
VT Digger

The Vermont politician could still hear the applause sparked by his introduction when he began to extol the virtues of a government-run Medicare for All insurance plan.

“I believe health care should be a right and not a privilege,” he said.

Next came his oft-repeated words about the scourge of opioid addiction.

“It drives me crazy — this is a problem created by big pharma that profits big pharma to this day.”

The audience here at Harvard University’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health has heard U.S. senator and presidential candidate Bernie Sanders campaign on such talking points for years. But on this recent autumn day, the speaker wasn’t the septuagenarian socialist but instead another Green Mountain Stater: former governor turned fall senior leadership fellow Peter Shumlin.

The 63-year-old Putney Democrat won his first gubernatorial election in 2010 after promising to support a publicly financed state health care plan, then signed a law a year later that called for the nation’s first single-payer system. As his administration crunched numbers, he explored other wellness issues, going so far as to dedicate his entire 2014 State-of-the-State address to fighting opioid abuse.

Chamber honors Bee's Wrap, Fred Kniffin and HOPE
Addison County Independent

The Addison County Chamber of Commerce recognized a local business, individual, and non-profit organization with awards during its annual meeting held on Oct. 24, at the Middlebury Inn.

The 2019 Buster Brush Citizen of the Year Award was presented to Dr. Fred Kniffin of UVMHN/Porter Medical Center. Dr. Kniffin exemplifies the criteria for which the award is given — a person who has a history of getting things done to make the community better in a variety of ways, with no intention of personal reward or recognition.

Tom Manion, vice president at Porter Medical Center, introduced Dr. Kniffin, sharing the three traits he believes make the hospital’s leader worthy of this recognition: fantastic communication, discipline, and being patient/people-centered.
People in the News
Mark Your Calendar!
Mondays, October 14-November 18, 8:00 a.m.
The Gables, Mendon

Monday, Oct 28, Monday, Nov 4, & Thursday, November 7, 3:00 p.m.
CVPS C ommunity Health/Education Center, Rutland

Wednesday, November 6, 4:00 p.m.
Northern Vermont University, Johnson

Thursday, November 7, 8:00 a.m.
White River Jct. VA Medical Center, White River Jct.