From the President and CEO
Last week, we had the honor of joining more than 100 Vermonters and even out-of-state guests at our virtual annual meeting, "Achieving Equity in Health Care."

We were proud to welcome Congressman Peter Welch (left) to the meeting. He congratulated not only Vermont leaders, but also Vermont health care workers and community members for what has become a nationally admired response to COVID-19. He complimented hospitals on making good decisions that were "extraordinarily burdensome," but saved lives.

Vermont Department of Health Commissioner Dr. Mark Levine followed and also talked about our collective effort to manage the pandemic. He also provided a transition into our keynote speech by delivering data on the demonstrably higher rates of COVID-19 among Vermont's black, indigenous and people of color (BIPOC) populations.
Keynote speaker Maria Mercedes Avila, PhD, gave a thought-provoking presentation to help us better understand the inequities minorities face when accessing and/or receiving care. My hope is that Dr. Avila’s presentation will fuel and accelerate efforts already underway to minimize and eliminate such disparities—and inspire others to take new action. She gave us resources we hope can help us heal these inequities. And she led participants in an exercise of intention-setting. We all examined ways we could take the first steps toward creating real change in
our system.

We will bring you more details from our annual meeting in the coming weeks. Thanks to all who were able to attend!
Jeff Tieman
VAHHS President and CEO
Legislative Update
And, that’s a wrap to the weird and wild 2019-2020 biennium. Below is a summary of the major health care initiatives that passed.  

Legislators will now pivot to campaign mode for their respective races. Check your mail for your ballot and please VOTE! 

The following health initiatives are heading to the governor’s desk, for a comprehensive summary of the entire 2020 session, go here

Primary care and nursing workforce: After some back and forth on revenue sources, the legislature adopted one of the recommendations out of the Rural Health Services Task Force and passed H.607, which creates $1.6 million in scholarships for nurses and rural primary care providers.

$100 cap for 30-day supply of insulin: The budget included a requirement that health insurers cover insulin so that consumers will only pay $100 out of pocket for a 30-day supply starting in 2022.

Hazard Pay Program: The budget also incorporated an expansion in the current hazard pay program to include traveling nurses, contracted janitorial, security, and food services at health care facilities, and resident physicians or dentists earning less than $25 per hour. The budget also allocates an additional $20 million to the fund for a total of $48 million.

$3 million for testing at hospitals and nursing homes: The budget allocates $3 million to assist hospitals and nursing homes with COVID-19 testing.

In the News
UVM Health Network pushes back against regulator’s budget cuts

The leader of the UVM Health Network, Vermont’s largest health care network, is pushing back against state regulators, saying mandated budget cuts will put a further strain on access to patient care and make it more expensive.

In a letter to the Green Mountain Care Board Wednesday, CEO John Brumsted said he’s concerned that the budget review process has become “untethered from equitable, legal and financial principles.”

The push back comes after the board’s decision last week to cut back hospital budgets.

“We need the resources available to support our people so that we can provide care for everybody that comes to us,” Brumsted told WCAX.
Castleton launches Master of Science in Nursing
Vermont Business Magazine

Castleton University will help meet regional healthcare employers' needs by offering a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN), beginning in the spring 2021 semester.

The program offers a Clinical Nurse Leader concentration and a Nurse Educator concentration. It is designed for working nurses with a bachelor's degree who wish to advance their careers. Castleton is now accepting applications for the spring semester.

Angie Smith, DNP, Assistant Dean of the School of Nursing, said the growing complexity and diversity of the healthcare environment and a severe national nursing shortage led to the development of this program.

"While CU is doing a great job providing qualified baccalaureate nurses to the community, the demands of healthcare have increased the need to prepare and employ clinical nurse leaders," Smith said. "Due to increasing complexities in healthcare, several employers have reached out to CU to ask that we help prepare Vermont registered nurses to be clinical nurse leaders at the bedside."

The Clinical Nurse Leader concentration will equip graduates for leadership positions in clinical settings. Graduates will be qualified to sit for the American Association of Colleges of Nursing certification examination for CNLs. The Nurse Educator concentration prepares graduates to train nurses in academic and clinical settings. Graduates of the Nurse Educator concentration will be qualified to sit for the National League for Nursing certification examination for either Certified Nurse Educator or Certified Academic Clinical Nurse Educator.

Springfield Hospital files plan to split from clinics in exit
from bankruptcy
Valley News

Springfield Hospital and its associated Springfield Medical Care Systems clinics in six area towns have filed plans to exit bankruptcy as separate entities at the end of the year.

The plans, filed last Friday in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Burlington, hinge in large part on the state of Vermont supporting the 25-bed critical care hospital and related federally qualified health centers through a total of $6 million in “exit funding.”

The plan also would write off $4.65 million in unpaid taxes owed the state of Vermont.

Of the new state aid, $4 million is slated to go to the hospital and $2 million to SMCS, which includes health centers in Charlestown and the Vermont communities of Ludlow, Chester, Bellows Falls, Londonderry and Springfield.

The new state bailout, which comes on top of $800,000 the state loaned the health care system in early 2019, is included in Gov. Phil Scott’s budget that the Legislature is voting on this week, said Tom Huebner, special assistant to the governor for Springfield Hospital.

Questions and confusion surround Green Mountain Care Board reappointment

On Sept. 30, Jessica Holmes will conclude her six-year term on the Green Mountain Care Board. With days left before the term expires, the process to fill the seat has become the subject of disagreement and confusion.

Holmes is seeking reappointment to the five-member board, which regulates hospital budgets, oversees the state’s health care reform efforts and OneCare Vermont, and seeks to control health care costs. Holmes, a professor of economics at Middlebury College, was appointed in 2014 by Gov. Peter Shumlin.

But how that reappointment process works depends on whom you ask. More than 10 people across six different government agencies and political offices offered conflicting messages about whether Gov. Phil Scott could simply reappoint Holmes without giving others a chance to compete for the post. The state statute is unclear, several people said, when asked whether officials in charge of the appointment process have dropped the ball.

“I don’t even know if I’m considered a member of the nominating committee,” said Allan Ramsay, a former Green Mountain Care Board member who served as chair of the nominating committee starting in 2017.

Racial discrimination in mental health care

Race and its impact on physical health are well documented. Minorities in this country are almost two-times more likely to suffer from a major chronic disease.

And that statistic helps drive another -- racial and ethnic minorities are more likely to get sick and die from COVID-19. But it doesn’t end there, minorities are also at a disadvantage when it comes to mental health care.

Céline McArthur spoke with UVM Medical Center Child Psychiatrist Dr. David Rettew about some of the disparities and their impacts when it comes to mental health care.

People in the News
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