In the News
UVM Health Network a victim of cyberattack

The University of Vermont Health Network Thursday confirmed that it was the victim of a nationwide cyberattack Wednesday that targeted patient records at UVM Health Network hospitals across the region. Officials said it did not affect patient care but some procedures were canceled.

The University of Vermont Health Network, FBI, and Vermont Department of Public Safety are investigating the now-confirmed cyberattack that hit the network’s six hospitals differently. Federal agencies reported cybercriminals had unleashed a major ransomware assault against the U.S. health care system. Independent security experts said it had already hobbled at least five U.S. hospitals earlier this week and could impact hundreds more.

UVM Medical Center officials say their IT team has been working since the attack to identify what happened to which UVM Health Network Systems, trace those problems, and find solutions, but that they expect it will take a number of days to restore the system. The staff are following downtime procedures they’ve drilled for in preparation for network outages, like shifting to a paper system, but they’ve never experienced a shutdown as significant as this. They stress while the electronic systems help the network communicate, they don’t prevent clinicians from providing proper health care. UVM Medical Center officials say no patient information was lost and that they have a hard-copy backup for every patient file, but it’s still not clear how much private patient information may have been compromised.

Scott and Levine layout Vermont’s initial vaccine distribution rollout
Vermont Business Magazine

Governor Phil Scott and Health Commissioner Mark Levine, MD, today detailed the state’s framework for distribution of a COVID-19 vaccine, once one is produced and distributed to the state.

The state has submitted responses to a series of questions from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), laying out the framework for vaccine distribution and Vermont’s preparedness. The federal government, which is responsible for nationwide distribution of vaccines, still needs to provide details on many logistics surrounding a potential vaccine, and this interim COVID-19 vaccination plan will evolve as new information comes forward.

“With so many unknowns, this is difficult work,” said Governor Scott. “But we have a strong infrastructure in place, and we have been working with a talented team of world class experts for months to learn from past experiences and to further strengthen our systems. The bottom line is: We will be ready.”

A COVID-19 Vaccination Planning Team was convened in July to begin this process and is responsible for fully developing the vaccination plan. This team includes experts from the Department of Health, Vermont Emergency Management, the University of Vermont Medical Center (Vaccine Testing Center and Pediatrics) and the Agency of Digital Services.

Volunteers wanted: UVM Medical Center among sites testing COVID-19 vaccine
Burlington Free Press

The University of Vermont Medical Center in Burlington has been chosen as one of about 80 sites nationally to take part in the third phase of a trial for one of the COVID-19 vaccine contenders, the hospital announced this week.

The hospital, along with the university's Larner College of Medicine, will be testing the safety and effectiveness of a vaccine developed by Oxford University and distributed by AstraZeneca, according to a news release. As part of the trial, the hospital is looking for about 250 volunteers from Vermont, New York and New Hampshire to help with the study.

"These are pivotal trials to actually get to the point where a vaccine or vaccines can be licensed or used in the broader population,” said Dr. Beth Kirkpatrick on Tuesday. Kirkpatrick, a specialist in infectious diseases at the UVM Medical Center, spoke about the trials during Gov. Phil Scott's twice-weekly news conference.

Overall, the study will enroll 30,000 volunteers nationally at the 80 sites in the U.S., Kirkpatrick said. Study sites will be enrolling volunteers in the next six to eight weeks, and the study itself is expected to last two years.

Provider groups push back against Trump claims that doctors are inflating COVID-19 numbers
Healthcare Finance

Hospital groups are pushing back against President Trump's claims this week that doctors are overreporting COVID-19 deaths for financial gain. Trump made the comments at a Wisconsin rally on Saturday.

"You know some countries they report differently," Trump is quoted as saying in Newsweek. "If somebody's sick with a heart problem, and they die of COVID, they say they die of a heart problem. If somebody's terminally ill with cancer, and they have COVID, we report them. And you know doctors get more money, and hospitals get more money. Think of this incentive. … We're going to start looking at things."

Rutland Regional tightens visitor policy in response to flu season and COVID-19
Vermont Business Magazine

In order to ensure patient safety in response to growing COVID-19 infection rates throughout the Northeast, Rutland Regional Medical Center announced new visitor restrictions for the hospital and clinics.

As of November 2, 2020, visitors may not enter the hospital or associated medical clinics unless a patient’s treatment team has identified them as an Essential Support Person. Pediatric patients, labor and delivery patients, and patients who are near the end of life are among the patients who will be permitted to be accompanied or visited by essential support persons. Children under 18 will not be allowed to visit patients except for exceptional circumstances.

“Our number one priority is to keep our patients and staff safe and restricting access to the hospital and clinics is a proven way to do this,” said Claudio Fort, president and CEO of Rutland Regional. “We recognize the difficulty this creates but we ask for the community’s support and patience. We all have to work together to protect our patients in the wake of this unprecedented pandemic.”

Rutland Regional will continue to facilitate patient communication with friends and family through video conferencing and other means.

Brattleboro Retreat To Lay Off 85 Employees, Cut Four Programs

On Friday, the Brattleboro Retreat announced it will lay off 85 employees in the next two months, and cut four programs: its addiction treatment hub, its addiction management program, the Mulberry Bush Independent School early learning center, and its K-12 school, called Meadows Education Center.

The retreat currently employs 550 people, plus an additional 75 contract workers, according to its spokesperson.

The mental health facility has long struggled financially, relying on state subsidies to keep its programs afloat. And its census – the number of patients staying at the facility – has been far below normal levels, ever since the COVID-19 pandemic hit.

Now, the Retreat says it must cut $8 million dollars from its annual budget.

VPR’s Henry Epp spoke with Brattleboro Retreat CEO Louis Josephson about the cutbacks.

People in the News