VAHHS Annual Meeting
VAHHS Annual Meeting: September 29 to 30, 2022
Be sure to reserve your room when you register. Our block of rooms is limited.
Message From the CEO
Hospitals have just finished two weeks and likely close to 50 hours of budget hearings before the Green Mountain Care Board (GMCB). This is an exhaustive, expensive and time-consuming effort, but it has allowed hospitals to share their thorough and candid assessment of where they stand. The financial outlook may be bleak, but the resolve, creativity and leadership exhibited in the face of great challenges was nothing short of inspiring. Our hospitals clearly articulated plans to stabilize and recover and they have asked the GMCB to approve responsible and needed stabilization budgets to ensure they can support their staff and care for their patients.

Many of you know from previous columns that my wife is a nurse, so I know first-hand that health care workers are special. They manage complex care issues and they provide support for families in times of great need. Unfortunately, I also know the mental and physical fatigue that these caregivers are enduring and just how critical it is that we get our hospitals stabilized.

Over the past several years, I have wondered how on earth, under these great challenges, are our hospitals pulling off the amazing feat of caring for their patients, co-workers and communities?

After hearing hours and hours of testimony, I know the answer is clear. It is their smart innovative plans to manage and make significant gains addressing the challenges of workforce shortages, workplace violence, wage pressures, travelers, multiple years of steep health care inflation, supply chain issues, a trend of declining margins, capacity issues, and patient flow problems related to a broken mental health and long-term care delivery system.

In my closing remarks, I asked the board members to please take into consideration three key things as they enter the deliberation phase.

  1. Above all else, remember these budgets are about people—patients, their families and communities. The stories you have heard are the experiences of our neighbors and friends. Our hospitals may present charts and graphs, but each fact and figure represents care a patient will or will not receive and services a community will or will not have access to.
  2. These are needs-based budgets that represent only what our hospitals need to stabilize. These budgets produce modest, but critically important, margins—a system-wide average of just two percent—and ensure hospitals can make necessary investments in equipment, staff, supplies and buildings.
  3. Like the members of the GMCB, I have listened to every second of every presentation by every hospital, and I am proud of this thoughtful and dedicated group of Vermonters. I know our state will be stronger when our hospitals are stable once again.

After hearing the incredible details our hospitals provided throughout this process, I respectfully asked the GMCB to approve these budgets as submitted. I know there will be immense pressure to reduce costs, but I hope the facts will prevail. Vermonters need hospitals to be there for them and their ability to do so will suffer if budget cuts occur.
In the News
Sanders welcomes HRS Administrator Johnson to Vermont to discuss the health care workforce crisis
Vermont Business Magazine

Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) on Friday will welcome Carole Johnson, Administrator of the Health Resources & Services Administration (HRSA), to Vermont to meet with health care providers and educators. The discussions will cover a range of health care issues in Vermont, including the health care workforce crisis, Vermont’s extensive Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC) network, and opportunities to support and strengthen primary health care across the state.

HRSA, an agency within the US Department of Health and Human Services, oversees federal initiatives to support the primary health care workforce, including the National Health Service Corps and Nurse Corps, and the delivery of primary care to more than 30 million people – including over 180,000 Vermonters – through FQHCs.
Turning Point official: More communication needed on overdoses
Bennington Banner

A new residence for women working toward opiate addiction recovery is expected to open by next summer, the Bennington Select Board was told on Monday. In addition, the board heard a call for more communication among responders to the scene of non-fatal overdoses.

Members of the area Opioid Task Force briefed the board Monday on continuing and planned new programs and provided a timetable for a opening of a recovery residence for women — similar to an existing residence for men.

Ralph Bennett, supervisor of recovery coach services for the Turning Point Center, cited what he sees as a communication gap preventing further progress in the fight against addition and overdose.
Millions of Americans will soon be able to buy hearing aids without a prescription
Vermont Public

Adults with perceived mild to moderate hearing impairment will be able to buy hearing aids directly from stores, pharmacies and online retailers — no prescription or doctor's appointment required — as soon as mid-October.

That's thanks to a final rule issued by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Tuesday and set to take effect in two months, following years of campaigning by lawmakers and advocates. It creates a new category of over-the-counter hearing aids, which the Biden administration says will make the devices more accessible and affordable for millions of Americans.

The new rule applies only to certain air-conduction hearing aids for people ages 18 and older who experience mild to moderate hearing impairment, meaning those that are intended for pediatric use or severe hearing impairment will remain prescription devices. It also does not apply to "personal sound amplification products," consumer products that help people with normal hearing amplify sounds.
Health officials watch infections overseas to gauge flu season

Vermont officials are watching what happens in Australia to forecast how bad this year’s flu season will be.

Dr. Tim Lahey, an infectious disease expert from the UVM Health Network, spoke with our Darren Perron about this year’s flu concerns and the timeline for vaccinations. Watch the video to see their full conversation.

Biden to help millions escape higher health care costs

Millions of people in the United States will be spared from big increases in health care costs next year after President Joe Biden signed legislation extending generous subsidies for those who buy plans through federal and state marketplaces.

The sweeping climate, tax and health care bill sets aside $70 billion over the next three years to keep out-of-pocket premium costs low for roughly 13 million people, just before the reduced prices were set to expire in a year beset by record-high inflation.

As the calendar pushed closer to the Nov. 1 open enrollment date, Sara Cariano was growing nervous about her work helping people across Virginia sign up for subsidized, private health insurance on the website.

“I expected very difficult conversation with folks to explain why their premiums were spiking,” said Cariano, a policy specialist at the Virginia Poverty Law Center.
Covid levels 'low,' health department reports, but hospitalizations are up

Vermont reported “low” Covid levels in the health department’s latest weekly report. Cases, hospital admissions and the percent of hospital beds in use for Covid remained low in the past week, the department said.

But there is one metric on the rise as of Wednesday: The state hit 47 patients hospitalized for Covid on Wednesday morning, the highest number since the end of May, according to the state database. It also reported a higher-than-average 40 patients on Monday.

The department’s report runs from August 14 to August 20, so it doesn’t reflect the latest uptick in hospitalizations. The state only releases hospitalization data for three days a week, making it hard to say if the recent high hospitalization counts reflect a consistent trend.
Hospitals in the News
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