Message From the CEO

Thanks to all who attended our 2021 Annual Meeting, “Forward Together.” We were pleased so many of you joined us even though it could not be in person. This year, we were proud to host the following presentations:

  • Keynote speaker Aron Ralston told the harrowing story of cutting off his own arm to save his life during after a canyoneering accident. He related that he did so “with a smile” and described the long hours that led to successfully dislodging himself from the boulder that had pinned him down for 127 hours in the Utah desert. Aron chatted with me and took questions after his speech.

  • Doug Wysocky-Johnson, from Lumunos, shared research and tips on how to reduce provider burn-out and COVID anger. Doug’s advice and information, while targeted at clinicians, were meaningful and useful for all of us.

  • Dr. Maria Mercedes Avila brought a panel of Vermonters who have come from different countries to demonstrate how the health care system often doesn’t sufficiently support people from different cultures. Using clips from a documentary in which they all appear, Dr. Avila and the panelists gave us important improvements we can implement.

  • Bess O’Brien and Sarah Lowry from the Listen Up Project explained how they produced an original musical inspired, created and performed by Vermont teens. Then they treated us to a few clips from a recording of the recent tour of the show and led a Q&A with some of the teens who performed.

  • We premiered our new documentary about Vermont’s response to COVID-19. Thanks to all who participated in making that happen. We’re now planning how to show the piece to more Vermonters and will keep you informed about our strategy.

  • Dr. Mark Levine, Vermont’s Commissioner of Health and our own Dr. Fauci, joined me for an informal conversation. We talked about everything from his career to how he’s managing COVID stress (hint—Star Trek).

We’ll feature more information presented at the meeting in upcoming issues of VAHHS Update as well as links for how you can learn more about these great presenters and their lessons for us all. Again, thanks to all who were able to join us, including our generous sponsors. While we couldn’t see all your faces, your support meant a lot to us.

Annual meeting, whether in person or online, is a major event to plan and coordinate. I want to thank Beth Esmond and her team from Esmond Communications for making sure our meeting had outstanding content and ran smoothly. Beth also directed the documentary debuted at our meeting, a wonderful piece of work we can all be proud of. 

Great job, Beth, and thank you for being a partner of VAHHS and Vermont's hospitals!
In the News
VDH: COVID cases more than double, Orleans County leads
Vermont Business Magazine

The Vermont Department of Health today reported more than double the cases from yesterday with 268 new cases of COVID-19 (121 Wednesday). While many regions of the country and world experienced a sharp increase and sharp decline of Delta variant cases in a 7-9 week window, Vermont is now into its 10th week and has shown a slower ascent and still no plateau in new cases. Case counts in the Northeast Kingdom are among the most stubbornly high, with Orleans County alone reporting 66 new cases today (by far the most in the state) and 293 over the last two weeks.

The VDH also reported today no deaths, which remain at 301 statewide (none since Tuesday). There are 40 people hospitalized (down two from yesterday) and 14 in the ICU (unchanged).

Hospitalizations have been elevated recently, but below pandemic peaks. Vermont still has the lowest hospitalization, case count and fatality rate in the nation, as well as the highest full vaccination rate.
Fourth COVID wave taking a toll on health care workers
WCAX

Since the start of the pandemic, the threat of catching COVID has brought increased anxiety for many frontline workers, especially in health care. Our Rachel Mann checked in to see how some providers are doing during the current fourth wave.

Rachel Foxx, a nurse at the UVM Medical Center says working throughout the pandemic has been taxing for both her and her family. “We get home and we’re spent. Our families are feeling the brunt of that. Our bodies are feeling the brunt of that,” she said.

Foxx works in the maternity unit but has also been working with COVID patients over the past year. “It certainly takes a toll mentally and physically. We don’t see our families as much. When we are home, we’re exhausted. it’s a weary kind of tired you can’t sleep away,” Foxx said.

In addition to the pandemic, health care workers like Foxx are working nearly 60 hours a week due to staffing shortages. “We are just more worn out. We are still working just as hard or harder. We’re working harder because we’re short-staffed. Now, we are working with patients who need more care,” she said.
Here’s how the most- and least-vaccinated states fared against the Delta variant
LA Times

The latest wave of COVID-19, driven by the Delta variant, has brought hospitals back to the brink and destroyed hopes of a return to normalcy anytime soon.

But the damage from the coronavirus has been far from homogenous, in large part because of geographic differences in vaccination rates.

To help understand how those differences have played out, The Times looked at the five states with the lowest rates of full vaccination and compared them with the five states with the highest rates.

Mississippi, West Virginia, Idaho, Alabama and Wyoming — all deeply red states — each have a vaccination rate of about 40%.

That figure ranges from 67% to 69% in the solidly blue states of Rhode Island, Maine, Massachusetts, Connecticut and Vermont — in that order.
UVM Medical Center Can Begin Planning for Surgical Center, Regulators Say
Seven Days

State regulators have granted the University of Vermont Medical Center permission to begin planning its proposed outpatient surgery facility, overriding concerns raised by frontline workers about whether the hospital can adequately staff the expansion.

The hospital was required to seek this initial level of approval, known as a "conceptual" certificate of need, because the proposed facility is expected to cost more than $30 million. The hospital must still return for final approval before it can break ground on the project.

UVM Medical Center leaders have said the new facility would replace the shuttered seven-room outpatient facility at Fanny Allen, address existing surgical backlogs and meet future demand.
UVM wins $7M grant for chemotherapy-induced nerve damage treatment, affects up to ¾ of patients
Vermont Business Magazine

Chemotherapy is a highly effective cancer treatment, but it frequently comes with a side effect that significantly affects patients’ quality of life. Between half and three quarters of all chemotherapy patients — more than half a million Americans annually — suffer a condition called chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathy, or CIPN, at the end of their treatment. Many experience severe pain, sensory loss and balance issues. Care is often inadequate, especially in rural areas, where few providers have expertise in treating CIPN symptoms.

The situation is about to improve. The National Cancer Institute (NCI) has awarded Noah Kolb, an associate professor of Neurology in the University of Vermont Larner College Medicine, and a team of researchers a $7 million grant to  develop a new intervention for chemo-induced neuropathy, one that can be as easily implemented in rural areas as large urban centers. Kolb is also a member of the University of Vermont Cancer Center and a neurologist at the University of Vermont Medical Center.
Vt. weekly case count breaks record; death toll passes 300
WCAX

As Vermont’s weekly case count reached a pandemic high last week, the state on Tuesday passed another bleak milestone, surpassing the 300 death toll. Despite the bad news, Governor Phil Scott Tuesday doubled down on his data-driven strategy, saying the high case counts don’t necessarily reflect the risk on the ground.

Vermont’s seven-day infection average last week was the highest it’s been since the start of the pandemic, partly because of Labor Day gatherings and also a reporting glitch earlier this month, officials say.

The state Tuesday reported 129 new cases with 48 people in the hospital -- one of them a child -- and 15 in the ICU. Officials say 80% of all hospitalizations are among the 79,000 unvaccinated. “A large percentage of these people can be vaccinated but have not done so,” said AHS Secretary Mike Smith.
Hospitals in the News
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