A Note to Our Readers

As you have no doubt been reading, the crisis in Ukraine has affected every element of daily life there, including the health care system. Last week Russian airstrikes essentially destroyed a children’s and maternity hospital, and medical supplies and equipment are needed urgently. There are numerous ways to contribute and help—you can visit the following websites for ways to direct your donation.


Thank you for your support at this troubling time.

Legislative Update
Devon Green, VP of Government Relations

Crossover Week: Legislative Halftime
Last week was crossover week, where policy bills must get voted out of their committee of jurisdiction or perish. And, because this is the second year of the biennium, it means any bill that didn’t make it is dead and would have to be completely reintroduced next year. But, just to keep things exciting, nothing is ever truly dead before gaveling out the session—there is always the chance for language to sneak into other bills. Below are the policy bills that made it through crossover that we’re keeping an eye on. This week, all the action will be in the money committees and passing the budget out of House Appropriations. We will keep you updated!

Workforce
$2.4 million in grants to hospital-employed nurses to serve as preceptors, $3 million to health care organizations to establish nursing pipelines, authorizes the GMCB to exclude hospital investment in nursing workforce, health care workforce coordinator, DOL health care workforce data hub

Health care reform
$1.4 million to the Green Mountain Care Board (GMCB) to develop a process for establishing value-based payments and identifying opportunities to use regulatory processes to improve hospital financial health, $2.5 million to GMCB to facilitate a plan for health care system, including community providers, $1.1 million to GMCB and AHS to design the next All Payer Model agreement

Mental health
$3 million in school emergency relief funds to expand mental health services to youth

Mental health
Certificate of peer support specialists and funding for peer-operated support centers

Regulatory
Licensure of freestanding birth centers, birth centers included in certificates of need (CONs), and GMCB to evaluate need of birth centers in state

Regulatory
Sets minimum standards and simplifies hospital financial assistance policies

Regulatory
Extending COVID-19 regulatory flexibilities

Prescription drugs
Pharmacy Benefit Manager (PBM) regulation and transparency

Telehealth
Telehealth tiered licensure

Safety
Prohibition of firearms in hospitals

Care coordination
Planning and support for individuals and families impacted by Alzheimer's Disease and related disorders

Data
Establishes an amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) registry
In the News
Medical Center Uses Career Growth and Foreign Nurses to Combat Shortage
the bridge

Central Vermont Medical Center isn’t immune to the state and national shortage of nurses, but it has diagnosed the problem, come up with treatments, and is making progress. How big is the challenge? Of the 500 nursing and nursing-related positions at the medical center, 100 are either filled by temporary employees or vacant.

In a recent interview at the hospital, Workforce Development Coordinator Megan Foster and Chief Nursing Officer Matthew Choate said that they are using about 60 “traveling nurses” — professional staff from outside the region who work on temporary, more expensive contracts — and another 25 temporary licensed nursing assistants. But they’re working to resolve this problem.
Following symbolic veto override, Senate agrees to Scott’s compromise on firearm background checks
VTDigger

The Vermont Senate on Friday advanced a firearm background check bill, S.4, that met Gov. Phil Scott’s demands following his veto of a farther-reaching bill, S.30.

But before doing so, the body mounted a symbolic display of opposition by voting to override Scott’s veto, even though the House is unlikely to follow suit. 

“By voting to override S.30, the Senate is sending a clear message to the governor that we are serious about gun safety legislation,” said Senate President Pro Tempore Becca Balint, D-Windham.

The Senate voted 21-9 to override S.30, a bill that would close the “Charleston Loophole,” requiring clean background checks for firearm purchases through federally licensed dealers. 
Local organizations share $9 million in federal funding
Brattleboro Reformer

A number of local organizations are in line to get federal assistance when President Joe Biden signs the appropriations bill that came out of Congress over the past two days.

In total, local organizations will be receiving more than $9 million in congressionally directed spending, formerly known as earmarks.

Of the $167 million requested by Sen. Patrick Leahy for Vermont, $3 million has been set aside for a food enterprise center at the Retreat Farm.

“The food enterprise center at the Retreat Farm is a huge investment in our town,” said Elizabeth McLoughlin, chairwoman of the Brattleboro Select Board. “This project will bring jobs, as well as help with food security and equity in the region.”
UVM Medical Center to Help Build Apartment Complex for Employees
Seven Days

Vermont’s largest hospital is working with a local developer to build 61 apartments for its employees.

The University of Vermont Medical Center says it is investing $2.8 million into a soon-to-be-constructed apartment building on Market Street in South Burlington. The Snyder Braverman Development Company will own and operate the building and plans to break ground in the coming weeks.

UVM Medical Center leaders say the first-of-its-kind arrangement will preserve the apartments for hospital staff for at least the next 10 years in an attempt to attract new workers to the area.

"We believe strongly that we need to do something in the housing marketplace, because we try to hire people and there's nowhere for them to live,” Al Gobeille, executive vice president for operations at the UVM Health Network, said in a phone interview Wednesday.
Vermont officials discuss changing mask guidance
Valley News

Last week, officials at Gov. Phil Scott’s weekly news conference cited the falling number of severe COVID-19 outcomes as a reason to end its masking recommendation and change its isolation guidance effective March 14.

“The decision to wear a mask will be up to each person based on their own circumstances, personal risk assessment and health needs,” Health Commissioner Mark Levine said this week.

“This will mean something different for everyone,” he said. “You may feel ready to take off your mask indoors, or you may decide to keep wearing it due to your age, or a health condition, or to protect someone at risk for more severe illness, or maybe you’re just more comfortable keeping it on during this transition time.”
Vermont reports lowest Covid hospitalizations since August
VTDigger

The number of Covid patients at any given time has been dropping since January, when the state reported a two-week streak of over 100 patients.

Wednesday’s hospitalizations are down from 22 on Tuesday, according to the health department.

The 18 people hospitalized include four intensive care patients, the same as on Tuesday. But intensive care usage has also fallen from a high of more than 20 patients each day from mid-January to mid-February.

The Department of Financial Regulation reported Tuesday that the rate of people being newly admitted for Covid has also fallen in recent weeks, from a high of about 20 Covid admissions per day to about six per day.
Man denies punching hospital staff
Rutland Herald

A man whom police identified as a transient is facing a felony charge after police accused him of assaulting two staff members at Rutland Regional Medical Center on Saturday.

Carl H. Jennette, 59, pleaded not guilty on Monday in Rutland criminal court to a felony charge of aggravated assault and a misdemeanor charge of simple assault on a protected professional.

Jennette was also arraigned on a misdemeanor charge of simple assault from Washington County. He had been cited to be in Washington criminal court to be arraigned on the charge Jan. 6 but failed to appear, according to court documents.

According to the Vermont Department of Corrections online inmate locator, Jennette was being held in the Rutland jail as of Wednesday afternoon.
Hospitals in the News
Mark Your Calendar