From the CEO
By Jeff Tieman,
VAHHS President and CEO

On May 6 began the annual recognition of nurses that has taken place in one form or another since 1954. National Nurses Week honors the caregivers who fuel the compassion of our health care system, treat us when we are sick, speak with our families while we recover, visit us at home, keep careful track of our status, revive us when we crash and hold our hands when we die.

I know well the emotional and physical toll nursing takes because my husband is a neonatal ICU nurse. I see every day the commitment and energy, the patience and the passion this work involves. Like all nurses, his job became more intense and difficult during the pandemic.

So, this year, we recognize the nurses who have helped lead us through the challenges of COVID-19 while continuing to put their patients first. We are grateful for their service during such a critical time for health care delivery. We are grateful for their leadership and input as systems were designed and redesigned to keep Vermonters safe. And we are grateful for nurses’ sacrifice as they often had to live apart from even their own families to prevent the spread of infection.

"Superhero" has been a word ascribed to caregivers over the past year. Rightfully so. In 2020, nurses stepped up and they doubled down. They earned the title of hero many times over—and continue to do so as they help vaccinate Vermont and play many vital roles in public health.

At VAHHS, we created an affinity group of hospital chief nursing officers before the pandemic was even imagined. We did that because their expertise and perspective is so valuable as we work to deliver the best possible care to our patients and communities. Then, during the pandemic, it was enormously productive to convene the nurse leaders to help inform Vermont’s effective and compassionate response.

I have no qualms about saying that the nurse in my life is a superhero, and I know so many of you feel the same about the nurses in your lives. Tell them this week. Buy some flowers. Give a big hug. Say thank you. The nurses who love and treat you have earned it.
Legislative Report
by Devon Green
Vice President of Government Relations

Legislative Update

Have you ever done a hike with a false peak? You think you’ve reached the top only to realize there is more to climb. The end of the legislative session is in sight now that legislators have been assigned to a conference committee to hammer out the remaining differences between the House and the Senate on the budget bill, but with talk of a veto session and a possible October session to determine spending of federal funds, the view from mid-May could be more mountain.    
 
Last Week
 
Changes to Current Mental Health Law: The House concurred with the Senate on H.46, which requires inpatient psychiatric units to inform patients with voluntary legal status that they may be treated on a locked unit and that a requested discharge may be deferred if their treating provider considers them a person in need of treatment. It also requires hospitals to provide information on assisting with changing a status from involuntary to voluntary with a patient’s posted notice of rights. This bill will now go to the governor.
 
Interstate Practice Telehealth Work Group: Another bill heading for the governor’s desk for signature is H.104, which will take lessons learned from the COVID-19 public health emergency and evaluate ways to promote the use of telehealth across state lines, including telehealth licenses, waiver of licenses, national licensure compacts and regional reciprocity agreements.
Survey Request
Survey to Evaluate the Vermont All-Payer ACO Model

NORC at the University of Chicago (NORC) has been contracted by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) to lead an independent evaluation of the Vermont All-Payer ACO Model. NORC is conducting a survey of physicians and Advanced Practice Providers (nurse practitioner, physician assistant, etc) who provide primary and some specialty care to gather feedback and insight about the model. 

Providers can complete the survey through this link https://vtallpayer2021.norc.org/. The survey is open to both those who are currently participating and not participating in the All-Payer ACO Model. The survey will be open through the end of May and should take approximately 20 minutes to complete.
In the News
Vermont ranks 1st nationally in Covid-19 vaccination rate
VTDigger

Vermont is now first in the nation in its Covid-19 vaccination rate, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

About 340,000 residents, or 62% of the population, have received at least one dose of the vaccine, according to last week’s data from the Vermont Department of Health. About 44% of Vermonters have received both doses. 

The state overtook Connecticut for first place in the U.S. within the past week. 

Gov. Phil Scott heralded the announcement on Twitter on Monday. “We’ve been a national leader throughout the pandemic, and it’s up to all of us to finish strong,” he wrote, urging Vermonters to sign up for their shots. 
With country bumping into low vaccine demand, Vermont pushes for herd immunity
VTDigger

Across the country, some experts have suggested that the United States may not reach herd immunity for protection with the Covid vaccine, according to national news reports

But in Vermont, “we can do better,” said Mark Levine, state health commissioner, at a press conference Tuesday.

“They say, ‘We’ve already taken care of those who are most vulnerable, especially to severe illness, and there will be less hospitalizations and deaths. Covid will just become a disease that younger and healthier people get. And maybe that’s OK,’” Levine said. “But that’s not where I stand.”

Vt. lawmakers look at expanding health care to undocumented kids, pregnant women
WCAX

Vermont is on the verge of providing health care to several dozen undocumented migrants.

The idea is to expand eligibility to Dr. Dynasaur. That state program is similar to Medicaid and provides health and dental care to children and pregnant women.
Right now, 61,000 Vermont children under the age of 19 are on Dr. Dynasaur. More than 1,300 pregnant women are, too.

Now, a bill in the Statehouse would expand that coverage to undocumented children and pregnant women. Producer Daniela Fierro and I spoke with one migrant woman about what this could mean for her and her family.

Yadira, 27, is an undocumented worker and mother who lives on a Northeast Kingdom farm. Her oldest child was born in Mexico and her youngest was born in America.

“His biggest fear is his little brother because he’s an American citizen,” she said. “He asks what’s going to happen? Are they going to take my little brother?”
Building a Strong Healthcare Cybersecurity Program is a MUST!
Health Tech Magazines

In 2020, every healthcare organization was stretched to its limits by the worldwide pandemic.

Throughout this historic year, IT was heavily relied upon as an essential component to solving a complex puzzle that changed daily. Instantly enabling and supporting telehealth platforms, moving employees off-site as part of the new remote workforce, and standing up COVID-19 dashboards were common themes of how IT departments responded to the evolving needs.

However, interwoven into this complexity was another theme – the significant uptick in security events that threaten to bring healthcare facilities to their knees. During the early days of the pandemic, hackers vowed to give healthcare a free pass on ransomware attacks.
Hospitals in the News
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