In the News
Hospitals to keep following CDC guidelines despite end of Vt. COVID restrictions
WCAX

Now that Vermont has reached its goal of vaccinating 80% of the eligible population and Gov. Phil Scott has lifted state pandemic restrictions, what will that mean for hospital visitation policies?

Hospital officials we spoke with say their plans are to continue following guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, regardless of Vermont’s new rules and the vaccination status of visitors.

“Our regulations are somewhat different than the rest of the community,” said Dr. Rick Hildebrant, the medical director and chief medical information officer at the Rutland Regional Medical Center.

Hildebrant says even though the governor has lifted all restrictions for Vermonters, health care facilities still follow the CDC guidelines.
Need Help Remembering Life Before Covid? Head to Vermont
The Wall Street Journal

Last week, a group of senior citizens who attend Rev. Elizabeth Griffin’s strength training class in a former church did something that felt radical. They had class without their masks.

Since the entire group was vaccinated, they could leave the masks home under new town rules.

“My life is kayaking and biking and I could still do all that. But the socialization. That’s something I really missed,” said Colleen Steen, dressed in a pink workout top and celebrating her 75th birthday with hand-held weights and some deep knee bends.
Ms. Steen said she’s now having a lot of meet-ups that begin with the question, “Are we hugging yet?” And then they do.

Vermont is the most-vaccinated state in America. And that means Vermonters are living life like it’s 2019—or as close as you can get.
New reciprocal nursing law aims to address Vermont’s spiraling health care costs
WCAX

A shortage of nurses and other workers continues to contribute to soaring health care costs in Vermont, but a new law signed by Governor Phil Scott allowing reciprocal licensure with other states aims to address the problem.

Vermont In recent years has seen a shortage of medical professionals of all stripes. “There were 5,000 nurses that we needed back in 2020, I’m sure the need has increased,” said Devon Green with the Vermont Association of Hospitals and Health Systems.

When hospitals and clinics are short-staffed, providers usually pay bucks to bring in traveling nurses. But now Vermont is joining 34 other states in adopting the Nurse Licensure Compact, which allows nurses to travel and practice from one state to another without going through relicensing. Green is among those that predict it will be an incentive for nurses to work in Vermont. “We get more new graduates, we keep Vermonters who go to school here and we can grow our workforce to reduce those costs that bringing in those traveling nurses increase,” she said.
Supreme Court dismisses challenge to Affordable Care Act, leaving it in place
CNN

The Supreme Court dismissed a challenge to the Affordable Care Act on Thursday in a decision that will leave the law intact and save health care coverage for millions of Americans. The justices turned away a challenge from Republican-led states and the former Trump administration, which urged the justices to block the entire law.

The justices said that the challengers of the 2010 law did not have the legal right to bring the case.

Justice Stephen Breyer penned the decision that was 7-2. Justices Samuel Alito and Neil Gorsuch dissented.

"With millions of people relying on the Affordable Care Act for coverage, it remains, as ever, a BFD. And it's here to stay," President Joe Biden tweeted Thursday, a reference to him being caught on a hot mic telling President Barack Obama in 2010 the law is a "big f--king deal."
Area hospitals continue to deal with pandemic-related blood shortages
WCAX

Hospitals in our region and around the country are suffering from a severe blood shortage, according to the American Red Cross, and some of that can be blamed on the pandemic.

Some hospitals are feeling the impact of blood shortages more than others. The University of Vermont Medical Center has a trauma center and performs transplants and other major surgeries, so it requires a greater amount of blood.

“Patients coming in a little bit more sick, maybe a little bit more injured than normal,” said Sarah Harm, UVMMC’s blood bank medical director. She says that now that more operations are taking place as they reopen from the pandemic, the blood supply is at a premium. “Makes us a little bit nervous because we are a trauma center, so there’s a certain expectation that we have blood available. We must have blood available.”

UVMMC’'s blood bank currently has a four to five-day supply on hand, but they usually have a five to seven-day supply. Harm says the supply is running around 50% for other hospitals that don’t have as many surgeries. Rutland Regional Medical Center officials say that 50% gets them by on most days and that they’ve chosen to cut their blood supply to give the extra to hospitals in higher demand, something the Red Cross suggested to hospitals across the country at the start of the pandemic.
Telehealth not just a broadband issue
Rutland Herald

The number of people seeing their doctor online through the Rutland hospital jumped nearly 15 fold during the pandemic. While the increase in telehealth visits was born out of necessity, many want to see it become a regular fixture of the health care system, but making that a reality will take more than expanding broadband service.

“Funding is obviously critical,” said Lt. Gov. Molly Gray, during a visit Wednesday to kick off the Recover Stronger Tour. Gray noted Vermont has received $2.7 billion from the federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) and has so far spent about $600 million, with $150 million being allocated to broadband expansion. “(I)n order for Vermonters to access telehealth they not only have to be able to access broadband, they have to be able to afford broadband, and importantly, as we learned today, be able to have the equipment and training to engage with a health care provider,” Gray said.

Another big piece is how much Medicaid and private insurance companies reimburse providers for telehealth sessions.
Workforce woes felt locally
Brattleboro Reformer

It’s no secret that finding staff now is difficult.
“I’m hearing that across the board from lots of people — restaurants, you know, small factories,” said Greg Lesch, interim director of Brattleboro Area Chamber of Commerce, “skilled and not skilled.”
Lesch said it seems to be a statewide and nationwide problem.
“We hear from employers on a daily basis about the need to hire,” said Adam Grinold, executive director of the Brattleboro Development Credit Corp.
Grinold said the sentiment expressed to him is, “It used to be hard to find people. Now, it’s next to impossible.”

The Covered Bridge Inn on Putney Road in Brattleboro closed after all the guests checked out of their rooms on Memorial Day due to a shortage of staff. Needing 10 employees to run the property, the inn was down to three.

Dustin Bulley, inn co-owner, said the hospitality sector was especially hit hard because employees were laid off for so long during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We were trying to get people back but a lot of people have found other opportunities,” he said, adding that he believes the issue is even more pronounced in southern Vermont where housing affordability is a big challenge.
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