Message from the CEO
While Vermont is seeing some of the lowest COVID-19 viral rates in the country, we still see new cases nearly every day. We’re even seeing outbreaks that could lead to community transmission if we’re not vigilant and successful at contact tracing. We’re not out of the woods yet and many predict cooler weather that drives Vermonters indoors could lead to an uptick in cases.

While a vaccine for COVID-19 is under development and hopefully soon on its way, we do not have one yet. There is no vaccine for Coronavirus.

What we do have is the flu shot.

This year, it is especially crucial that we all take advantage of this immunization. The flu, while not as pernicious as COVID, can be quite serious. Last year, when we had a relatively mild flu season, up to 6 percent of monthly emergency department visits were due to the flu. Flu can cause serious illness and even death. In an ordinary year, flu is a concern. In 2020 and 2021, we can ill afford to be cavalier about it.

Flu and COVID have similar symptoms, so when more people get the flu, more testing will be needed to determine what they have. The prospect of getting both the flu and COVID at the same time is not one any of us wants to face. We also want to preserve resources in case we do see a rise in COVID cases. We worked hard, successfully, earlier in this year to avoid overwhelming our hospitals and health systems with cases; we want to be sure that doesn’t occur due to a “double pandemic,” as many refer to flu and COVID spreading at the same time.

It’s easy to get a flu shot. And in nearly all cases, it’s comes without cost to the person receiving the shot. The flu immunization is considered preventive care and is covered without co-payments by most insurance, as required by the Affordable Care Act. Even those Vermonters who do not have insurance can visit one of the Vermont Department of Health offices to receive one.

Flu shots are not 100 percent effective, but that’s one reason that more people need to have them. More immunizations mean more protection for the population overall. Moreover, if you have a flu shot and do contract the flu, you will likely have a milder case, lessening your chances of reducing your immunity to other viruses like COVID.

Please get your flu shot. And encourage others you know—including patients—to get theirs as well. Even those of us who are staying out of public places for the most part will need to be indoors with others at points during this year’s flu season. We need to keep ourselves and others as safe as we possibly can. So far Vermont has proven that we’re very good at caring for each other. A flu shot is one more way we can do that.
In the News
As financial pressures rise, hospitals cut traveling nurses

In April, nurse Courtney Peters was working a six-week Covid stint as a traveling nurse when she got a call from her local hospital. It was a job offer.

At the time, Peters, who’s in her 30s, was working long days at her Massachusetts hospital, as Covid cases surged.

The offer from Brattleboro Memorial Hospital, where she had worked off and on for more than a decade, was appealing. Her hefty traveler’s salary didn’t make up for the grueling work schedule, she said. National reports of shortages of personal protective equipment made her nervous.

“You want to be part of a safe team,” Peters said. She accepted a 13-week gig at Brattleboro, and then extended it. Six months later, she’s still there.

Local hospital budgets approved
Rutland Herald

When the Green Mountain Care Board approved hospital budgets for Fiscal Year 2020 last month, Rutland Regional Medical Center and Central Vermont Medical Center were granted rate increases.

Claudio Fort, president and CEO of Rutland Regional, said the two main things the Green Mountain Care Board (GMCB) consider when hospitals submit their budgets are the growth of net patient revenue and the proposed rate increase.

Rutland Regional officials are expecting a decline in revenue, attributable to the pandemic, so their proposed budget included a 6% increase, which was granted by the GMCB.

“Because we project volumes to be down this year, even with the rate increase, we’re only going to have about six tenths of 1% of an operating margin,” Fort said.

Fort said he would characterize the budget as “tight” but added the rate increase granted was the largest Rutland Regional has requested during the past five years.

During that time, Rutland’s charge increases have averaged 1.8% each year.

Vicki Loner: OneCare's investment in Vermont's future health care reform
Bennington Banner

For many, the conversation around health care and health policy can seem like a foreign language with so much jargon that it is hard to translate. Let me try to be more straightforward in an effort to share information that may be of interest when we’re talking about such an important and deeply personal issue, and a large part of our state’s economy.

First, health care costs too much for too many Vermonters. Second, when we invest in prevention like annual exams and colonoscopies and in chronic disease management for high blood pressure or diabetes, we can save money and improve the quality of life for people. When providers like doctors, mental health experts, physical therapists and visiting nurses working at different places are all working together to take care of the whole person, we can save money and improve the quality of life for people.

It sounds straightforward, and it is. What’s more challenging is how to invest differently in the system in order to achieve these goals. That’s where the All-Payer Model and OneCare Vermont come in. This is precisely what we are on our way to creating here in Vermont.

North Country Hospital earns “Most Wired Recognition” for fifth consecutive year
Newport Dispatch

The College of Healthcare Information Management Executives (CHIME) recently announced that North Country Hospital has earned the 2020 CHIME HealthCare’s Most Wired recognition as a certified level 7 again for the fifth consecutive year.

The Most Wired program conducts an annual survey to assess how effectively healthcare organizations apply core and advanced technologies into their clinical and business programs to improve health and care in our communities.

North Country earned this achievement in the acute care hospital category as well as the ambulatory services category.

“North Country Hospital continues to leverage Information Technology to meet the needs of our community,” said North Country Hospital Executive Director of Informatics/IT, Kate Pierce. “This year, we’ve been increasingly dependent on technology advancements that enable us to provide telehealth services that are safe and convenient for our patients. We are so honored to receive this award for the fifth consecutive year in recognition of the hard work that our staff has accomplished.”

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