From the CEO
By Jeff Tieman
VAHHS President and CEO

In month 14 of COVID-19, almost 400,000 doses of life-saving vaccine have been administered in Vermont. Nearly 30% of Vermonters have completed vaccination. Some counties are at or near 50% in overall progress.

It is worth pausing on these statistics. Flash back to one year ago this week: Growing case counts and hospitalizations, health care providers scrambling for PPE, staff levels depleted as schools shuttered, surge capacity sites activated, incident command in full effect across government and public health.

The concept of a vaccine was still blurry at best. We didn’t know a lot about how COVID-19 behaved or evolved, let alone how to inoculate against it. But even in those dark early days, work was underway at pharmaceutical companies and in the scientific community to knock COVID down.

As clinical trials took shape behind the scenes, the public—and many health care providers—still viewed effective, available vaccines as far off. It was often repeated that most vaccines take years, if not decades, to create, develop and deploy. We envisioned months on end of managing the pandemic without a long-term solution.

With that context, let’s get back to those statistics. Almost one third of Vermonters are fully inoculated from COVID-19. In one week, everyone in the state who is 16 or older will be eligible to sign up for a vaccine appointment. Three different and highly effective vaccines are available in our state and across the country.

We have come a long way. And Vermont’s careful, calculated, coordinated response has helped a lot as we now move toward recovery. There is still a lot of work to do, however, including:

  1. Continue vaccination. We must vaccinate as many Vermonters as fast as supply allows. This includes encouraging those who are hesitant to learn about the extremely low risk and very high reward of getting a shot. VAHHS is creating PSAs and other materials to help with the important message.
  2. Address disparities. COVID-19 underlined the fact that our health care system is not equally available and effective for everyone. Work is needed to understand the gaps that must close so that no one receives inferior or insufficient care because they are a person of color.
  3. Stay vigilant. The pandemic is not over yet. Lots of people still need vaccine doses. As difficult as it is with so much progress taking place, it’s still critical to put masks on faces, keep six foot spaces and avoid crowded places! We’re almost there. We got this.
Legislative Update
By Devon Green
Vice President of Government Relations

Much like the weather, April in the legislature often brings its share of chaos and frenzy as we head into the home stretch. While it’s usually exciting, the unpredictability of the legislature hits a bit differently this year. Under COVID, every time our hospitals get their feet under them, another operational challenge presented itself—procuring PPE, creating negative pressure spaces, suspending services, testing and screening, resuming services, and administering community vaccinations. As the prevalence of variants rise, we continue to see outbreaks that fill ICUs and other hospital beds. Hospital budgets statewide have only a $3 million operating margin on a $2 billion dollar system. Unpredictability is hitting our hospitals from every angle right now. Adding legislative unpredictability on top of it feels like a bridge too far. 

Last Week

Health Care Reform: The Senate Health and Welfare Committee looked at two bills related to health care reform, S.132 and S.120.  

Chair Lyons noted that it is unlikely everything in S.132 will pass, given the late date in the session. The bill includes expansion of hearing aid coverage, durable medical equipment reform and coverage of two primary care visits per year. The bill also shifts distribution of value-based payments and shared savings from Accountable Care Organizations to the Green Mountain Care Board, requires the Green Mountain Care Board to review and approve every health care contract between health care providers and payers and gives the state auditor access to Accountable Care Organization records.  

S.120 creates a study committee to explore health care affordability for Vermonters. It is possible that the latest provisions in the American Rescue Plan Act, which increases subsidies for premiums and out-of-pocket costs will substantially improve health care affordability for Vermonters buying health insurance in the individual market.
In the News
Phil Scott rolls out timeline for full reopening

Gov. Phil Scott has announced a plan to lift most Covid-19 restrictions by July 4.

At a press conference Tuesday, Scott unveiled a four-phase schedule for relaxing travel restrictions, loosening capacity limits for businesses and eliminating gathering restrictions.

Scott said the announcement was meant to allow families, businesses and other organizations to budget and plan for the months ahead. “Our goal with this plan is to give Vermonters a transparent look at how we’ll be able to work our way out of this pandemic,” Scott said.

Masking and physical distancing guidelines remain throughout the first three phases. Both are still “encouraged” following July 4.

In Step 1, set to begin April 9, quarantine requirements for travelers would be lifted. Instead, unvaccinated people entering Vermont would be required to get tested within three days of arrival.

Low- or no-contact businesses would also shift to “universal guidance,” a new set of restrictions to be shared by the Agency of Commerce and Community Development. Many businesses currently fall under sector-specific guidance, which would be lifted under the new plan.

CVMC vaccine hub to deliver 1000 doses in single day
Vermont Business Magazine

As part of the State of Vermont’s vaccination efforts, The Vermont National Guard is administering 1000 doses of the one dose Johnson and Johnson vaccine at the Central Vermont Medical Center’s Vaccine Hub located in the former JCPenney in Berlin Mall on Sunday April 11.

The by-appointment-only event will run from 8am to 8pm, and is already completely booked.

“Our pandemic response has been grounded in collaboration,” said CVMC President and COO Anna Tempesta Noonan. “We are very pleased that the State of Vermont and our National Guard will make use of our space at CVMC’s Vaccine Hub at the Berlin Mall on Sunday for vaccinations”

Central Vermont Medical Center’s Vaccine Hub has been open since March 3 and has administered more than 7,500 doses of the Pfizer vaccine in the past 37 days with zero wasted doses. Since December 17, CVMC has administered more than 16,000 doses of Covid-19 vaccine.

MVP Health Care, UVM Health Network team up on new
health plan

A new partnership between a health insurance agency and health network aims to transform care for older adults in our region.

The UVM Health Network and MVP Health Care are teaming up to launch a Medicare Advantage health insurance plan to better meet the needs of older Vermonters and New Yorkers in the North Country.

The organizations say they are offering a patient-focused, physician-designed plan to make health insurance more supportive and personal.

These Medicare Advantage plans can offer coverage for more services that original Medicare does not, like vision, hearing or dental and other well-being benefits.

At Morrisville hospital, Leahy announces new funding for rural states' vaccination effort

U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy said Thursday he has secured additional funding in the American Rescue Plan Act to help rural health care facilities rebound from losses inflicted by the pandemic. He said Vermont would also receive an extra $32 million to help offset the cost of its COVID-19 vaccination program.

Rural states like Vermont face higher costs in trying to protect all their residents, he said.

"I was concerned early funding treated everybody alike," Leahy told NBC5 outside Copley Hospital. "But it doesn't work that way. I mean, Derby Line is different from Detroit. You've got to have the ability to adapt, especially in rural areas, which is what we've done."

Leahy joined Vermont Health Commissioner Dr. Mark Levine earlier in the morning at the Morrisville VFW Hall, which has been transformed into a COVID-19 vaccination site.

Staff and volunteers from Copley Hospital said they expected to administer 500 doses of the Moderna vaccine over the course of the day Thursday as a steady stream of people arrived to get their shot.
Springfield Hospital hires next CEO
Valley News

Springfield Hospital has hired a health care consultant to serve as its next CEO, according to a hospital news release.

Robert “Bob” Adcock, of Wildwood, Mo., is set replace interim CEO Mike Halstead later this month. Adcock most recently provided consulting services to West Virginia University Hospitals and served as CEO of Fairmont (W.V.) Regional Medical Center.

“I am looking forward to joining Springfield Hospital, and continuing its 107-year tradition of caring for the community and the remarkable achievements its team has made in providing high quality health care through some challenging times,” Adcock said in the release.
BIPOC vaccine clinics offer a shot for equity
Brattleboro Reformer

Wichie Artu hopes the success of vaccination clinics reaching racial groups disproportionately affected by COVID-19 is used as a model in future health initiatives and infrastructure.

“I plan to be in conversations with different racial justice organizations in Vermont including in those places that usually don’t have advocacy,” said Artu, who is second vice president of the Windham County National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. “It’s just got to keep going.”

Work towards a more equitable health care system doesn’t stop after the COVID-19 pandemic, Artu said. He noted the Vermont Legislature is considering a bill that would create the Office of Health Equity.

Hospitals in the News
Mark Your Calendar