Message from the CEO - 3/27


I had the honor last week of attending a health care roundtable with Senator Peter Welch and United States Department of Agriculture undersecretary for rural development Xochitl Torres Small. Representatives from Senator Bernie Sanders’s and U.S. Representative Becca Balint’s offices also attended, as did leaders from Vermont’s health care community. We came together to celebrate recent Emergency Rural Healthcare Grants (ERHC) and Community Facilities (CF) funding for hospitals and health centers, most recently Northeastern Vermont Regional Hospital (NVRH) and Copley Hospital.

NVRH, which hosted the event, will use funds received through the USDA for the expansion of its emergency department, laboratory, pharmacy and mental health support area to be more efficient, safe and functionally modern. Copley will add its own funding to USDA grants and loans and secure a new medical office building to improve efficiency in operations. NVRH and Copley are critical community institutions, and they offer great examples of what can be accomplished through creativity and innovation. We know their projects will make a significant difference for the people they serve.

Not only were we able to offer our thanks to our federal Congressional delegation and administrators for their work to bring these funds into Vermont; we also got the opportunity to discuss Vermont’s broader healthcare status, needs and strategies in a roundtable discussion between federal representatives and Vermonters in our health care system. Among them were Green Mountain Care Board chair Owen Foster and Vermont Agency of Human Services Jenney Secretary Samuelson.

Conversations like these are essential. As I said in my opening remarks at Friday’s event, what made the presentation so incredible was the spirit of collaboration and partnership of the people in the room. We cannot make progress on our rural health care challenges without that spirit, and we are fortunate to have leaders at the federal, state and local level working together to improve the lives of our friends and neighbors.

Undersecretary Torres Small commented on the number of times someone in the room remarked that “Vermont is special.” But Senator Welch reinforced the idea and I agree. Our ability to work together with other non-profit entities to solve problems is the exception and not the rule nationally. I know this from talking to my colleagues across the country.

As you probably know, delivering care in our rural corner of the world is particularly hard. Just ask the leaders who struggle to balance the books or the providers working long hours with few, if any staff, reinforcements. Our population is older, and patients are showing up sicker.

Even still, there are so many bright spots where hospitals are partnering with state and federal agencies like the USDA to innovate and modernize. We cannot make progress without this teamwork, and last week’s roundtable shone an excellent spotlight on the progress we can make by using our unique Vermont style of collaboration.