From the President and CEO
The global pandemic has been difficult for all of us – individuals, families, parents, students, employers, employees, the list goes on. Health care providers too have faced new challenges and stepped into new roles.

Hospitals incurred significant unexpected expense as they planned for a possible surge in Vermont COVID-19 patients. We retrofitted space, created new staffing models, set up testing regimens, purchased expensive and hard-to-find protective equipment, and adopted new policies and guidelines to respond to rapidly changing conditions.

While this work was disruptive and costly, it was largely successful due to effective collaboration between the health care system and state and community partners. In fact, Vermont’s results have been lauded as a model for the nation.

In addition to unanticipated administrative expense, hospitals experienced significant loss of revenue as a result of COVID-19 measures. Beginning in March, and lasting for more than eight weeks, hospitals shut down non-urgent medical procedures to make room for possible COVID-19 admissions.
In the News
Vermont mask mandate goes into effect Saturday

Vermont Governor Phil Scott for months had been hesitant to call for a mask mandate, instead opting for encouragement. But last week, as cases continued to surge across the country, he took more aggressive action and a statewide mask mandate goes into effect on Saturday.

Masks will be required in public places -- both inside and outside -- where social distancing can’t be maintained. Children under the age of 2-years-old and those with a medical condition still don’t have to wear one. Businesses and other entities may require customers to wear masks, including signage explaining mask requirements and denial of entry or service to those who decline to wear masks.

“We have really encouraged our employees to work with the customers to try to encourage masks and gloves,” said Chris Conant, the owner of Clausen’s Greenhouse in Colchester.

He says the mandate, even without a form of enforcement, does help small businesses like his, since Clausen’s has been more strictly enforcing mask policies. “I think if anything it just reassures us that we’re doing the right thing, we have been doing the right thing, and moving forward we will do it as long as we are told and, I really encourage people to follow suit,” said Conant.

Are masks required outdoors? And other FAQs on Vermont’s mask requirement

Last week, Gov. Phil Scott announced that a mask order would go into effect statewide on Aug. 1, requiring people to wear cloth facial coverings in public spaces in Vermont.

Until now, Scott has preferred to encourage people to wear masks through education and awareness, rather than by mandate.

Mask mandates have been up to municipalities so far during the pandemic. Some cities and towns, including Burlington, South Burlington, Brattleboro, Montpelier and Wilmington, already have local mask policies in place.

Before Scott’s order goes into effect on Saturday, VTDigger put together a list of FAQs for readers about what the statewide mask order means, where it applies, and the penalties for not following it.
RRMC named a High Performing Hospital for Hip and Knee Replacement by US News & World Report
Vermont Business Magazine

For the second year in a row, Rutland Regional Medical Center has been recognized as a High Performing Hospital for Adult Knee Replacement, and has also been named a High Performing Hospital for Adult Hip Replacement for 2020-2021 by U.S. News & World Report. More than 4500 Medical Centers nationwide were evaluated in ten procedures and conditions with fewer than one third of all hospitals receiving any high-performance rating.

Rutland Regional is the only hospital in Vermont to earn a “High Performing” rating for both Adult Knee Replacement and Hip Replacement. These awards were given in recognition of care that was significantly better than the national average as measured by factors such as patient outcomes. “High Performing” is the highest-ranking U.S. News & World Report awards for that type of care.
Southwestern Vermont Medical Center ranks 4th in nation
for value
Vermont Business Magazine

Southwestern Vermont Medical Center (SVMC), part of Southwestern Vermont Health Care (SVHC), ranked fourth out of 3,282 hospitals nationwide for value of care, according to the Lown Institute Hospitals Index. The hospital also earned an A+ overall, highest among Vermont’s 10 hospitals.

“We are particularly proud to have been ranked so highly for value, which is not often considered by other healthcare ranking organizations,” said Thomas A. Dee, FACHE, SVHC’s president and CEO. “We put patients’ needs and interests first, and this assessment is a powerful reflection of our patient-centered culture.”

According to the Lown Institute website, some hospitals provide health care services that are unnecessary, expensive, and even harmful. Unneeded or ineffective procedures, tests, scans, and medications can cause physical harm and waste resources. This overuse is known as low-value care. The practice increases healthcare costs and puts patients at risk. The index evaluates how often hospitals deliver 13 commonly overused services, including over prescribing, over screening, and unnecessary procedures. It grades the hospitals based on the likelihood that they are delivering care appropriately.

AHA, AMA and ANA Release Public Service Announcement as Part of Campaign Urging the Public to Wear a Mask to Help Stop the Spread of COVID-19

American Hospital Association
American Medical Association
American Nurses Association 
Together, the American Hospital Association (AHA), the American Medical Association (AMA), and American Nurses Association (ANA) released a public service announcement (PSA) today urging the American public to take three simple steps to help stop the spread of COVID-19: wear a mask, practice physical distancing and wash hands frequently. The PSA is the first element of a comprehensive campaign to increase public acceptance of these essential actions and builds on the groups’ open letter to the public released last month.

Physicians, nurses and hospital and health systems leaders have been joined by researchers and public health experts in this important call to action. The science and evidence is clear, following these guidelines is essential to helping to stop the spread of the virus.
Free Vermont Health Care Share Program increases
food security
Vermont Business Magazine

Nutrition Services at The University of Vermont Medical Center is currently enrolling eligible Chittenden County patients and families to participate in the free Vermont Health Care Share Program.

The Vermont Health Care Share Program (HCS) is a free patient resource for farm-fresh produce. The statewide program brings together farms, health care facilities and Vermonters. By providing support for home-cooked family meals made with fresh, locally grown produce, along with information on healthy eating, cooking and living, HCS aims to improve Vermonters health and well-being.

An initiative of the Vermont Youth Conservation Corps (VYCC), this program has made an impressive impact since its inception in 2012:
  • Over 1,000 Vermont families have participated
  • In 2019, 400 families participated from five different medical center partners
  • In 2019, The Farm at VYCC employed 70 youth and young adults statewide to grow food for HCS
  • Over 52,752 pounds of produce was grown by the VYCC for the HCS!
Rutland Regional Medical Center to implement implicit bias training

Following a petition presented by 39 employees to hospital leadership last month, Rutland Regional Medical Center has begun scrutinizing its policies to ensure staff and patients are treated equally regardless of race.

The petition, submitted shortly after protests erupted following the killing of George Floyd by a white police officer in Minneapolis, asked the hospital to publicly acknowledge systemic racial disparities within the country’s medical system, organize implicit bias training for employees, and raise the Black Lives Matter flag over the hospital.

Hospital leadership checked two of these boxes earlier this month, releasing statements from both CEO Claudio Fort and department leaders the same day they hoisted the flag, which will fly through the end of August.

"I think we’re all living in a celebratory moment,” said Ryn Gluckman, an emergency room nurse who organized the petition. “It feels like an incredible decision that Claudio Fort made.”

Gardening for Health program to launch at The University of Vermont Medical Center
Vermont Business Magazine

Gardening for Health is an introductory gardening, nutrition and health education program created to cultivate patient and community health. The program connects concepts of physical activity, healthy eating and confidence building over an eight week period. Participants engage in workshops both at home and in a shared garden space at the Rooftop Garden at UVM Medical Center’s Main Campus. This pilot program is made possible through funding from The University of Vermont Medical Center Foundation.

Gardening for Health aims to teach people how to grow their own food and build the skills and confidence needed to make changes in health habits, which can lead to significant improvements in long-term health outcomes. According to Dr. Michael Latreille, a primary care physician who helped design the program, “The act of gardening has demonstrated positive impacts on health in many domains, with improvements in habits such as healthy eating and regular exercise, better mood and higher performance on measures of physical function. We hope to connect patients to this elemental activity and all of its health benefits, while also educating them on tools to help empower positive change and prevent disease.”

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