Message from the CEO
As I write this, we are in the middle of one of the most beautiful Vermont summers I can remember. The weather seems to be perfect every weekend, giving those who work weekdays time to enjoy beaches, rivers, trails and creemees.

Hospital workers don’t necessarily break on the weekends, however, and right now, our hospitals are quite busy. Emergency departments are seeing the fallout from recreational mishaps; people who have put off care due to COVID are now receiving it—often requiring higher levels of care—and the ranks of our health care workers are shrinking, leaving the remaining staff with ever-growing caseloads.

In the midst of this rush, as I mentioned in a column a few weeks ago, staff at our hospitals and other care settings are experiencing increasing disrespect and even violence from those in their hospitals. This unacceptable behavior ranges from raised voices to racist slurs to physical harm. Wait times, economic hardships and general stresses have left some folks forgetting how they should treat the people who care for them.

At VAHHS, we feel strongly that this cannot continue. To try to quell such incidents and remind all of us of the need to be kind and respectful, we have launched a public information campaign. You should see it in the days and weeks to come. We hope you will share it with your networks and help us raise awareness of this growing problem. The fact is, we’re all feeling the strain in some way, and it shows up in ways we sometimes cannot anticipate. And it will take all of us to improve the climate both in and out of our hospitals and build a stronger Vermont where everyone can feel safe.

So, what else can you do?

Remember—and remind others—that health care workers are doing their best under stressful conditions. Every industry is feeling the impacts of the workforce crisis. The nurse or food service worker or x-ray technician you are seeing showed up to work to do perhaps the job of more than one person. The people caring for you deserve your appreciation, not your frustration.

And as you’re enjoying all that the Vermont summer has to offer, do your best to be safe.
Decreasing accidental injuries and taking care of yourself and loved ones during the warm
summer months will reduce the cases in our health care settings.

Continue to take COVID-19 seriously. I know it has been a long slog already, but these new variants pack a punch, and we have to stay vigilant. If we’ve learned anything through this experience, it is that vaccines work. If you are due for a booster, make it a priority to get one. Everyone 5 years-old and older is eligible for a booster. And children 6 months and up are also now eligible for the vaccine. Wear a mask in crowded settings if you may be symptomatic. And you know the drill on hand washing by now.

Some of the brightest moments during the darkest times these past several years were when we showed the rest of the country our teamwork and might. We need to dig deep again and work together to reduce stress, be kind, prioritize wellness and keep up the COVID fight.

Thanks for doing your part.
In the News
Covid wave this fall could derail next year’s hospital budgets

Some months ago, when Vermont hospital executives began planning their budgets for the next fiscal year, the pandemic was in retreat. Cases were declining and so were hospitalizations and deaths.

Vaccines for younger children, toddlers and babies were on the horizon. The novel virus that radically altered every aspect of life in the Green Mountain State was slowly becoming the norm, not an emergency.

It was with that optimism that Stephen D. Majetich, chief financial officer at Southwestern Vermont Medical Center in Bennington, built the hospital’s budget proposal for fiscal year 2023. Executives built a budget to deal with the challenges they knew about — rising personnel costs and inflation.

Leaders at the 99-bed hospital in Bennington made very few allocations to handle another Covid-19 wave. Majetich is a money and numbers guy and none of the experts at the hospital could predict what the pandemic would do in the fall, he said. So he budgeted for little to no Covid-19 interruptions.
UVM Medical Center nurses vote to ratify new contract

Nurses at Vermont’s largest hospital have a new contract.

Monday afternoon, the UVM Medical Center said the union voted to ratify the new two-year contract for nursing staff.

The deal includes bonuses for shift differentials and being on call.

It also includes the 20% base wage increases previously announced this year.
UVM and Dartmouth Health team up encouraging early detection for lung cancer

UVM and Dartmouth cancer centers are launching a partnership with the state's cancer coalition, attempting to increase lung cancer screenings across the state.

Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths in Vermont and the United States.

It's exactly why two hospitals are teaming up, creating a new 'Community Education Program' with the hopes of reversing these staggering numbers.

About 330 Vermonters are expected to die of lung and bronchus in 2022.

Approximately 14.5% is the number of at-risk Vermonters who have chosen to get screened for lung cancer.

That number is far too low for doctors at the University of Vermont Medical Center.
UVM Health Network wants more money from insurers to
cover inflation
The Burlington Free Press

The University of Vermont Health Network wants insurance companies to bail it out of an unprecedented financial crisis, as inflation drives up costs and the COVID-19 pandemic continues to squeeze revenues for its hospitals.

The network has submitted a budget for fiscal year 2023 to the Green Mountain Care Board that includes an additional $142.3 million in payments from Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Vermont, MVP Health Care and other commercial payers based outside of Vermont, representing double-digit increases in commercial rate requests, according to a news release.

The Green Mountain Care Board oversees all aspects of health care in Vermont, including approval of hospital budgets.

If approved, the additional money from insurers would require commercial rate increases of 19.9% for UVM Medical Center in Burlington; 14.5% for Central Vermont Medical Center in Berlin and 11.5% for Porter Medical Center in Middlebury.
New mental health resources available to Vermonters

State leaders are highlighting mental health resources for Vermonters.

At his weekly news briefing, Gov. Phil Scott and other state leaders highlighted dozens of stresses Vermonters face, from the pandemic to inflation to war in Europe.

Leaders say one in five Americans face mental health challenges.

So beginning this Saturday, Vermonters can call 988 to be connected to the suicide and crisis hotline. The lifeline is now for anyone experiencing feeling overwhelmed, anxious and stressed.

“The majority of the people identify some light suicidality but really feeling distressed, overwhelmed, anxious or stressed on behalf of their parent or child. Neither of those people have to be suicidal to call the number,” said Alison Krompf, the deputy commissioner of the Vermont Department of Mental Health.
Reinfection risks posed by BA.5 subvariant

While there may not be cause for alarm in our region yet, doctors are noticing that the emerging COVID sub-variant known as BA.5 is causing a large number of reinfections for those who have previously been exposed to the virus.

Vermont health officials last week said COVID hospitalizations are trending upward despite community levels remaining “low.” It comes as the CDC reports that the new, highly-contagious omicron subvariants BA.4 and BA.5 continue to become the dominant strain across the country.

Health officials say they are seeing reinfections, greater severity of symptoms, and the ability to allude immunity from our current crop of vaccinations.

Christina Guessferd spoke with Dr. Jessie Leyse, an infectious disease physician at UVM Medical Center, about what they are seeing.
Kevin Mullin is stepping down from Geen Mountain Care Board: Here's what he's learned
Vermont Public Radio

As chair of the Green Mountain Care Board for the past five years, Kevin Mullin has helped establish hospital budgets and determine health insurance rates for Vermonters.

Mullin, who is preparing to retire in August, said the pandemic and current inflationary pressures are extremely challenging for Vermont's health care system. The board, he said, must balance affordability and access for consumers with making sure insurance companies collect enough money to cover the cost of care. "Difficult times such as these only heighten the tensions that are inherent in these factors. I know that premium increases will further strain families and businesses already facing hard times," he said.

Mullin, who also served as a state representative and senator for 19 years, is calling for a more sustainable health care system.
Hospitals in the News
Mark Your Calendar