From Our President and CEO
Today on the COVID-19 Front

Our friends and colleagues in New York City, New Orleans and other hot spots around the country are facing COVID-19 head on—very ill patients requiring intensive care, increasingly stressed facilities and equipment, shrinking supplies and, sadly, more deaths. 

Here in Vermont, we too are experiencing growth in the virus, but doing all the right things to prepare our state and health system. First, we are working to prevent new infections and minimize the need for hospital beds by practicing social distancing, which is the single best strategy to keep the virus from spreading.

Our hospitals slowed or stopped elective procedures to preserve personal protective equipment and optimize space. New policies—like screening people who enter the hospital for a fever—have been adopted to keep our workforce and patients safe.

Clinicians and leaders from all sectors of government and health care are collaborating every day to prepare Vermont for the surge of patients COVID-19 could create if growing infections raise the need for hospitalizations.

Legislative Update
Federal and state regulatory agencies continue to flex licensing and other requirements to help health care providers and others respond to the coronavirus pandemic.

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In the News
COVID-19 Update

As health authorities and hospitals address the growing spread of the COVID-19 virus, VTDigger is keeping up with all of the latest news and information you need to understand the magnitude of the crisis. Here you'll find resources for coping with the coronavirus outbreak, and updates on financial impacts and volunteer efforts.

COVID-19 Model Shows Vermont Currently Short On ICU Beds, Ventilators In 'Likely' Scenario

Vermont-specific computer modeling unveiled by the Scott administration Thursday shows that the state might not have enough intensive care beds or ventilators to treat patients during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Read the full modeling report here.

The “likeliest case” scenario for COVID-19 infections forecasts a peak need for 211 ICU beds, 76 more than the state has on hand now. It also projects the need for 114 ventilators — hospitals currently have 93 in stock, according to the administration.

The modeling projects that the peak will come in late April or early May.

Commissioner of Financial Regulation Michael Pieciak, who’s been overseeing the COVID-19 modeling for the administration, said Thursday that the forecast “is not representative of definitive outcomes.”

He added, however, that the numbers will help the health care system prepare for the influx.

Vermont inmates making gowns for hospital workers
My NBC 5

Some inmates at a Vermont correctional facility are volunteering their time to make personal protective equipment for hospital workers.

"It's really nice to see them step up and do this with no expectation of getting paid," said Jodi Gavin, a case worker.

The inmates at Southern State Correctional Facility are making gowns for Springfield Hospital workers, using trash bags, tape and string.

"They come up every single day every time I call them down to the units, they come up and they volunteer their time," Gavin said.

According to Gavin, they've been doing this for over a week and a half now, making between 250 and 300 gowns.

SVMC staff saluted by law enforcement
The Bennington Banner

Dozens of law enforcement vehicles paraded up Hospital Drive early Thursday morning to salute the staff of the Southwesern Vermont Medical Center as they fight the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Bennington Police Department, Bennington Sheriff's Department, Rensselaer County Sheriff's Department and Vermont State Police were all represented. Officers paraded up Hospital Drive, with lights on only, stopped in front of the entrance for approximately a minute, and got out of their vehicles as a salute to staff.

SVMC staff members had been notified of the event Wednesday night, and many were outside to receive the honor.

Bennington Police Chief Paul Doucette made an impromptu address. "On behalf of Bennington law enforcement and law enforcement in New York, we appreciate everything that the staff at the medical center does, not just during COVID-19, but throughout the year," he said.

In the middle of the coronavirus crisis, some hospitals fear financial ruin
ABC 11 News

As officials scramble to supply hospitals with much needed protective equipment for doctors and nurses fighting the novel coronavirus on the front lines, hospital leaders around the country warn that they are running low on another critical supply: money.

Hospitals have taken a significant loss of revenue as they cut back lucrative elective procedures to free up resources to treat COVID-19 patients. At the same time, they are pouring money into efforts to fight the virus like buying personal protective equipment (PPE) supplies, providing child care for staff and overtime pay, transforming units to COVID-19 wings for treatment and setting up drive-thru testing sites, hospital officials told ABC News.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo this week called the combination a "double whammy." For hospital systems across the country the costs are astronomical and state officials told ABC News they fear some facilities do not have enough cash to keep up.

The $2 trillion stimulus package President Donald Trump signed on Friday afternoon, which awards nearly $100 billion to hospitals to fight the coronavirus, is a boost many hope will alleviate some of the financial burden and prevent hospitals from closing their doors.

Hospital seeks support for emergency location
Rutland Herald

Rutland needs nurses. Rutland Regional Medical Center CEO Claudio Fort met with medical and other community leaders Thursday to discuss what the hospitals needs would be if and when it comes time to open the "alternate care facility" -- an emergency hospital -- planned in Spartan Arena due to an overload of COVID-19 patients. Nursing staff for the facility was identified as one need they still had to figure out how to meet.

"This is not something RRMC can staff alone," said Mel Boynton, the hospital's medical director, during the video conference. "We're going to beat the bushes, and I hope we're not going to have to beat too hard. We're hoping to see an outpouring of RNs, LNAs and others."

How many they will need is another question. The plan calls for Spartan Arena to be ready to take on 150 patients once the hospital hits its limit. Boynton said one direct care nurse can generally care for four or five patients, but has support from a staff of pharmacists, social workers, physical therapists and others.

Porter transforms for virus surge, adds acute-care beds
Addison County Independent

Porter Hospital has doubled, from three to six, its number of “negative-pressure” rooms in anticipation of a surge in COVID-19 patients that could come within the next two weeks, officials said on Tuesday.

Negative-pressure rooms are designed to prevent potentially contaminated air from spreading to other areas of the hospital. Lower air pressure in a patient’s room allows air to flow into the room but not escape from it.

While the local hospital’s census as of Tuesday included no coronavirus-positive patients, Porter officials are gaining experience with the malady, which has turned into a global pandemic. As of this writing, Addison County had seen 23 people test positive for the disease. Statewide, 293 people had tested positive thus far, and 13 have died.

Dr. Anna Benvenuto, Porter Medical Center’s chief medical officer, said the hospital’s affiliation with the University of Vermont Health Network will ensure greater resources should the county’s COVID-19 patient count explode. At the same time, Benvenuto and her colleagues are maximizing PMC’s capacity to care for locals. Officials are securing ventilators and other supplies to accommodate the most seriously ill.

Retreat limits inpatients to Vermonters only
Addison County Independent

The Brattleboro Retreat is limiting its in-patient clientele to Vermont residents only. This is to make sure that someone in Vermont requiring mental health care can be immediately sent to the Retreat instead of having to wait in an emergency room somewhere for a space to open up, said President and CEO Louis Josephson.

"Each time we admit a patient who would otherwise be stuck in a hospital emergency department suffering from acute psychiatric distress, we free up valuable medical resources needed to combat COVID-19 in Vermont," he said.

The Retreat is licensed for 149 beds. Before the national emergency, the Retreat held open 105 beds for inpatients. The Retreat has reduced its capacity to 92 beds and now has 72 patients.

The Brattleboro Retreat currently has one patient under quarantine as it awaits testing results to determine if that person has COVID-19.

"This is a recent development," said Meghan Baston, the Retreat's chief nursing officer and senior vice president of Patient Care Services.

Nonetheless, the Retreat had been planning for such an eventuality.