Vermont hospitals urge GMCB to support budget proposals


Hospitals have just finished two weeks and likely close to 50 hours of budget hearings before the Green Mountain Care Board (GMCB). This is an exhaustive, expensive and time-consuming effort, but it has allowed hospitals to share their thorough and candid assessment of where they stand. The financial outlook may be bleak, but the resolve, creativity and leadership exhibited in the face of great challenges was nothing short of inspiring. Our hospitals clearly articulated plans to stabilize and recover and they have asked the GMCB to approve responsible and needed stabilization budgets to ensure they can support their staff and care for their patients.
Many of you know from previous columns that my wife is a nurse, so I know first-hand that health care workers are special. They manage complex care issues and they provide support for families in times of great need. Unfortunately, I also know the mental and physical fatigue that these caregivers are enduring and just how critical it is that we get our hospitals stabilized.
Over the past several years, I have wondered how on earth, under these great challenges, are our hospitals pulling off the amazing feat of caring for their patients, co-workers and communities?
After hearing hours and hours of testimony, I know the answer is clear. It is their smart innovative plans to manage and make significant gains addressing the challenges of workforce shortages, workplace violence, wage pressures, travelers, multiple years of steep health care inflation, supply chain issues, a trend of declining margins, capacity issues, and patient flow problems related to a broken mental health and long-term care delivery system.
In my closing remarks, I asked the board members to please take into consideration three key things as they enter the deliberation phase.
  1. Above all else, remember these budgets are about people—patients, their families and communities. The stories you have heard are the experiences of our neighbors and friends. Our hospitals may present charts and graphs, but each fact and figure represents care a patient will or will not receive and services a community will or will not have access to.
  2. These are needs-based budgets that represent only what our hospitals need to stabilize. These budgets produce modest, but critically important, margins—a system-wide average of just two percent—and ensure hospitals can make necessary investments in equipment, staff, supplies and buildings.
  3. Like the members of the GMCB, I have listened to every second of every presentation by every hospital, and I am proud of this thoughtful and dedicated group of Vermonters. I know our state will be stronger when our hospitals are stable once again.
After hearing the incredible details our hospitals provided throughout this process, I respectfully asked the GMCB to approve these budgets as submitted. I know there will be immense pressure to reduce costs, but I hope the facts will prevail. Vermonters need hospitals to be there for them and their ability to do so will suffer if budget cuts occur.