Hospitals and their heroic teams must be protected

When I think of sustainability, the first thing that comes to mind is partnership. Whether it is a marriage or a mission, a policy or a plan, making it sustainable requires collaboration. Rarely does major progress occur because someone acted alone.
In the space of our health care system, sustainability requires all stakeholders to play their part: It is the duty of our hospitals and their governing bodies to ensure that they meet community need. It is the responsibility of our elected officials to enact smart policies that move us toward a stable, safe, accessible and affordable health care system. And it is our regulator’s role to make sure hospitals have the financial wherewithal to treat their patients and serve their communities.
This kind of shared effort is no stranger to Vermont. When I got here almost six years ago, after working for a long time in conflict-driven Washington, D.C., I was quickly impressed by Vermont’s sense of community and common purpose. Even when there is serious disagreement, we handle it differently than in other places. The preference is for discord to be managed rather than magnified.
During the past two grueling years, Vermont’s version of this served our state so well. None of our mighty and envied response happened by accident. I saw it myself day after day, as hospital leaders worked side by side with government officials and other health care providers.
Vermont’s government agencies and our hospitals mobilized as a single unit, even when the unprecedented and unimaginable challenges came at us fast and furious. Instead of turf wars or disagreement on public health strategies (as happened in so many other states), Vermont kept doing the right thing, and doing it together.
Of course, this response is not an anomaly. It is an extension of decades of partnership to make health care work better for Vermonters. That partnership relies on a clear understanding of roles and a mutual respect for each other’s talent and expertise, which can then be harnessed in unison to meet the moment. Examples abound—from Dr. Dynasaur to Catamount Health to the All-Payer Model and now to our COVID response.
As our state leaders think about the future of health care and its sustainability, we must continue this proud tradition to ensure the strongest possible outcome. We all agree the system needs to be stable, which means protecting services in every corner of our state so that patients receive the care they need and deserve, and so our providers are assured of a system that values their contributions.
Hospitals and their heroic teams—which stepped up at every turn of the pandemic and contributed enormously to our effective response—must be protected and resourced, not accused and diminished.
There is plenty of space for disagreement and even tension as this important conversation takes shape. To best manage that, we must trust in each other to fulfill our respective responsibilities. If we do that—and always bring to the conversation our accountability and reason—we can produce real results for Vermonters.