Farewell Message From Our CEO

Six years ago this month, I was interviewing for the job of CEO of the Vermont Association of Hospitals and Health Systems. I remember being so excited by the prospect of working in such a beautiful, inventive and kind state. Now, as I prepare to return to my home state of Colorado to lead the hospital association there, I am reflecting a lot on the amazing time I spent in Vermont, which absolutely turned out to be all those things.

It has been an honor and a privilege to lead VAHHS and work with such devoted and smart people in our health care system. Vermont hospitals helped to lead one of the nation’s best responses to the pandemic. It was challenging beyond belief, but I was always impressed by the courage and commitment of people throughout the state. Whether it was physicians and nurses working in dangerous and unknown conditions, or government officials standing side by side with hospital leaders to make difficult, but wise decisions, everyone stepped up and leaned in.

I could not be more proud of how those vital partnerships took shape, and of the leadership hospital teams showed managing the many challenges of COVID-19. Pandemic or no pandemic, Vermont hospital staff work tirelessly to meet their missions and ensure they are always there to serve their patients and communities. Our hospitals are, frankly, awesome places—24/7/365.

Hospitals here offer not only healing and hope but also problem solving and innovation. They are engaged in health care reform and contribute to their communities in countless ways outside hospital walls. VAHHS works hard to support these important efforts and will continue to do so long after I move to the Rockies.

Mike Del Trecco has been named the interim president and CEO of VAHHS. Mike is an 18-year veteran of the association and knows the policy and politics of Vermont’s health care system better than anyone. He is driven by the mission of helping hospitals make their communities healthier, stronger places and will be an excellent leader for VAHHS as the next crucial months unfold. You are in good hands!

Many difficult challenges lie ahead, but I am confident that the thoughtful people and collaborative spirit of Vermont will prevail—to the benefit of everyone who lives in this great state.

Thank you for reading this column, and for the generosity you showed me all six years I’ve been here. Have a great summer and stay in touch!
In the News
Vt. governor says pivot to post-pandemic footing underway

Vermont is on the verge of another pandemic pivot. With COVID cases once again on the decline, the state next week will end its testing centers, one of several steps state officials say marks the new endemic phase of the disease that will focus on recovery.

A year ago Tuesday, Vermont reached its 80% COVID vaccination goal, dropping many of the travel and other requirements that marked the start of the global pandemic, Since then, we’ve gone through two additional waves of COVID -- delta and omicron -- that saw the highest number of cases to date. And while other waves may come, Governor Phil Scott and state health officials Tuesday said the days of remote learning, isolation, and deferred health care have taken a toll on Vermonters’ social, emotional, and physical wellbeing. “We need to do whatever we can to reverse these impacts,” Scott said.

The state’s latest coronavirus data shows the continued decoupling of cases from hospitalizations and deaths. Officials say the current viral spread is low, with the state recording one death so far in June. Antiviral treatments are widely available and vaccines are on the way for the youngest Vermonters by the end of the month.

“We have reached a new phase in the pandemic where the risk of severe disease and death is much lower,” said Vermont Human Services Secretary Jenney Samuelson.
Vermont to launch 3-digit number for National Suicide Prevention Lifeline in July

Vermont will join the rest of the nation in launching a new three-digit number to reach the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline in July, using base funding from the state budget.

All states will be federally required to offer the three-digit number, 988, by July 16, as a mental health provision. On Thursday, Gov. Phil Scott signed H.740, legislation that allocates continued government funding to support Vermont’s Lifeline staffing and infrastructure.

Terri Lavely, board member and field advocate for the Vermont chapter of American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, is contributing to the oversight of the 988 rollout. She testified on behalf of this bill as well as for a previous bill it coincided with, S.69, for the House and Senate appropriations committees.
Rutland Regional Medical Center addresses workforce shortages amid high demand
Vermont Business Magazine

Of Rutland Regional Medical Center’s 450 nursing positions, 50 to 60 are filled by traveling nurses. This means, when the hospital is short-staffed, it contracts with an agency to hire temporary nurses or doctors who travel from one facility to another.

Rutland Regional is not unique in Vermont. Hospital officials have discussed how needing to rely on traveling health care professionals to fill vacancies has added significantly to the facility’s operating expenses.

RRMC President and Chief Executive Officer Claudio Fort said, “We have more nursing vacancies than we've ever had at Rutland Regional.”

Meanwhile, RRMC’s services are in high demand. The region is experiencing a resurgence of COVID-19. People who delayed care early in the pandemic are still catching up on in-patient and out-patient care.

“We’re doing what every hospital seems to be doing: bringing in temporary or traveler nurses to fill the gap,” Fort said.
High court rules against government on Medicare drug reimbursement

The Supreme Court said Wednesday that the federal government improperly lowered drug reimbursement payments to hospitals and clinics that serve low-income communities, a reduction that cost the facilities billions of dollars.

The high court ruled unanimously in a case involving payments for drugs, largely for cancer, that are used by Medicare patients in hospital outpatient departments. The Biden administration had stood by a Trump administration decision to reduce the payments.

The government had said that the hospitals and clinics, because of their special status serving low-income communities, are able to buy the drugs at a deep discount. The government said reimbursing the hospitals, called 340B hospitals, at the same rate as other hospitals that pay more created an incentive for the hospitals to overprescribe the drugs or prescribe more expensive drugs. It said that lowering the reimbursement would also save Medicare beneficiaries money in co-payments because those are linked to reimbursement rates.
UVM Medical Center nurses say they are under attack

UVM Medical Center nurses say they’re under attack. They’re calling on the hospital to do more after reports of violence in the emergency department.

Nurses in the emergency department say they’ve been assaulted both verbally and physically while providing care to patients, and enough is enough.

“I’ve had more than one nurse tell me that they’ve never been worried about getting COVID on duty, but come to work scared that they’ll be assaulted,” said Amanda Young, a registered nurse in the emergency department at the UVM Medical Center.

On Thursday, Young and other nurses from the hospital expressed concern over a rise in violence in their department.

“Our staff have endured strangulation, broken ribs, concussions, contusions, lacerations, permanent hearing loss, jaw fractures, broken noses, broken arms, broken cheekbones, bites, sexual assaults. Threats with weapons including knives, a hatchet and a chainsaw. Verbal threats to our lives, and threats to our loved ones’ lives,” Young said.
Hospitals in the News
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