From the President and CEO
As many of you know, we are approaching the date of the VAHHS Annual Meeting. Usually, we gather for several days in one of Vermont’s beautiful venues. In large ballrooms and cozy break-out sessions, we share ideas and listen to experts, stakeholders and community members who present on myriad topics related to health care in Vermont and worldwide.

Obviously (especially to health care providers), we can’t meet in person safely this year. But we think it’s especially important that we take some time to get together and reflect on the extremely important issues that have surfaced during the past year. We will therefore hold a virtual Annual Meeting on September 24 beginning at 3 p.m.

COVID-19 has clearly been the center of our worlds—personally and professionally—during the year. We would be remiss if didn’t take time to celebrate our perhaps best-in-the nation response to the pandemic and pause to realize that our work to combat the virus is not yet complete. In fact, several state leaders will join us to give their thoughts on how hospitals and health systems worked so well together and with others in the state to keep Vermonters safe and plan for surges that might have (and still might) threaten us.

The main focus of our meeting, however, will be another issue that has been more and more evident as Vermonters and all Americans are calling for racial justice. We know that health care is just another source of inequity among people of color and those from culturally diverse backgrounds. We know we have work to do to heal our system of this inequity and we want our annual meeting to jumpstart this work. 

We have invited keynote speaker Maria Mercedes Avilla, PhD, an expert in health care equity training, who will help us imagine the first steps we need to achieve equity in Vermont's health care system. After her presentation, we will break up into smaller groups to determine the next steps to actively change our policies, procedures and actions to rid our system of racial, cultural and ethnic bias. 

If you've never been to a VAHHS Annual Meeting, this short, accessible and free program is a great first taste. We hope you will join us.

Read the agenda here.

Register here.

This year, we will be using the Whova Web and mobile apps to do our registration. If you download the app or visit the Web app, you will be able to network with attendees and exhibitors before during and after the meeting and even schedule your own “Meet-ups” with peers and others who participate.

Thank you,
Jeff Tieman
VAHHS President and CEO
Legislative Update
Two more weeks to go in this strange and abbreviated legislative session. Last week, the House passed H.969, the FY ’21 budget, with minor changes from the governor’s proposal. One health care-related item in the budget includes language around integrating public funding for inpatient mental health care within the DVHA budget

Health Care Provider Workforce: The Senate Health and Welfare committee voted in favor of H.607 on Friday, a bill aimed at increasing the supply of nurses and primary care providers in Vermont. The bill creates two workforce scholarship programs. The Rural Primary Care Physician Scholarship Program will fund in-state medical school tuition for up to five third-year and up to five fourth-year medical students who commit to practicing primary care in a rural area with a health professional shortage or a medically underserved area of Vermont for at least two years. The legislation also funds $1.38 million in nursing scholarships. Students pursuing practical nursing, associate's or bachelor's degrees in nursing that commit to working in Vermont for at least one year after licensure are eligible for the scholarship. 

In the News
UVM Study: Without right messaging, masks could lead to more COVID-19 spread
Vermont Business Magazine

A novel new study suggests that the behavior public officials are now mandating or recommending unequivocally to slow the spread of COVID-19—wearing a face covering—should come with a caveat. If not accompanied by proper public education, the practice could lead to more infections.

The finding is part of an unique study, just published as a preprint in SSRN, that was conducted by a team of health economists and public health faculty at the University of Vermont’s Larner College of Medicine in partnership with public health officials for the state of Vermont.

The study combines survey data gathered from adults living in northwestern Vermont with test results that showed whether a subset of them had contracted COVID-19, a dual research approach that few COVID studies have employed. By correlating the two data sets, researchers were able to determine what behaviors and circumstances increased respondents’ risk of becoming sick.

The key risk factor driving transmission of the disease, the study found, was the number of daily contacts participants had with other adults and seniors.

That had relevance for two other findings.

Those who wore masks had more of these daily contacts compared with those who didn’t, and a higher proportion contracted the virus as a result.

COVID guide: Porter Hospital readies for fall 2020
Addison County Independent

Porter Hospital officials are thanking the Addison County community for helping the region deal with an initial wave of COVID-19 cases this past spring, but they’re asking residents to not let up on mask wearing and social distancing — especially since cooler weather is pushing people indoors, where the chance for coronavirus transmissions increase.
Porter officials recently shared information on the current state of COVID-19 in the county, how the hospital’s operations have evolved to meet current pandemic conditions, and how/when individuals should seek testing.

After more than five months of pandemic experience under its belt, Porter transitioned from a reactive mode — shutting down most elective surgeries in anticipation of an unknown number of COVID patients — to a more measured approach, steeped in a better understanding of the disease that has thus far afflicted more than 75 Addison County residents.

“Right now I feel we are well-positioned… both from a stockpiling perspective, but also having identified what we believe to be resilient supply chains,” Mike Leyden, Porter’s emergency preparedness manager, said in late August. “The only constant with the pandemic has been change. We, as an organization, have been even more resilient than we were aspiring to be back during the first wave. We look for curveballs.”

Vermont receives $3.8 million for suicide prevention
Vermont Business Magazine

Governor Phil Scott today announced that Vermont has received $3.8 million in federal funding for suicide prevention. The five-year grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) will support the implementation and evaluation of the state’s comprehensive public health approach to suicide prevention in Vermont. The announcement coincides with today’s observance of World Suicide Prevention Day.

“Deaths due to suicide are tragic and leave a lasting impact on families and loved ones,” said Governor Scott. “This grant will help ensure Vermonters who are struggling have access to the resources they need to help them through their challenges, and, hopefully prevent these unfortunate events,” Governor Scott said.

“This grant is timely as these are exceedingly stressful times. To any Vermonter who is experiencing crisis or feels helpless: Please know you matter to a lot of people, and help is available,” Governor Scott added.

According to the CDC, suicide is an increasing public health crisis that took more than 48,000 lives in the U.S. in 2018. As of September 4, 2020, there have been 72 suicide deaths in Vermont this year. Over the last 10 years, the number of suicides in Vermont has risen, with a current rate 34% higher than that of the U.S. as a whole.

UVM to participate in NIH trials of COVID-19 blood clotting treatmentWCAX

The University of Vermont (UVM) is participating in a major national research effort to evaluate the safety and effectiveness of varying types of blood thinners to treat adults diagnosed and hospitalized with COVID-19—the disease caused by SARS-CoV-2. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) announced the launch of two of three adaptive Phase 3 clinical trials September 1

Antithrombotics, also known as blood thinners, keep blood proteins or platelets from clumping or sticking to each other, but doctors have not yet determined if, and at what point in the course of COVID-19 infection, blood thinners might be effective at treating patients with this condition. Researchers have noted that many patients who have died from COVID-19 had formed blood clots throughout their bodies, including in their smallest blood vessels. This unusual clotting, one of many life-threatening effects of the disease, has caused multiple health complications, from organ damage to heart attack, pulmonary embolism, and stroke.

Part of the Accelerating COVID-19 Therapeutic Interventions and Vaccines (ACTIV) initiative, these trials will be conducted at more than 100 sites worldwide and will involve COVID-19 patients who have not been hospitalized, who are currently hospitalized, and who have been discharged after hospitalization for moderate to severe disease. Collectively known as ACTIV-4 Antithrombotics, the common goal of the three trials is to give doctors critical insights to improve the care of patients with COVID-19 and prevent life-threatening blood clots. All three trials will be coordinated by the NIH’s National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) and funded through Operation Warp Speed (OWS).

Hospitals in the News
Mark Your Calendars
Webinar: Know Diabetes by Heart | September 15 at noon
Hosted by the Massachusetts Health and Hospital Association

Achieving Equity in Health Care: A VAHHS Virtual Meeting
September 24 from 3:00 to 4:30 p.m.