Recovery and Building
by Jeff Tieman
VAHHS President and CEO
As I glanced over this week’s selection of VAHHS Update stories, I was struck by something profound. The first story is a Vermont Business Magazine feature of Southwestern Vermont Medical Center’s innovative effort to increase badly needed high-quality and affordable childcare capacity for their staff and their community. The second story is a WPTZ piece announcing the groundbreaking of an apartment building that will make dozens of new homes available to UVM Medical Center’s potential staff members who say they cannot accept jobs here for lack of available places to live.
Among our hospitals, stories like this are common but not all of them are featured in the news. Hospitals are doing amazing things to tackle challenges in their communities and strengthen the workforce, not because it’s the easy thing to do, but because it’s the right thing to do.
We have a workforce crisis across the state that is straining every sector of the economy. What makes it different for our hospitals is that, unlike other businesses, they cannot simply relocate out of state or adjust hours of operation or computerize core functions. Instead, they have an obligation to be available 24/7/365 in all weather, in all manner of crisis and without fail.
Some of our hospitals are particularly stressed right now as they begin to emerge from the pandemic and address the next set of challenges and opportunities. So they are sharpening their pencils, seeking creative solutions and leaning in to continued efforts to address community challenges. They do this because we are an entirely non-profit system designed and built to serve our patients and lift up our communities.
When criticism is directed at our hospitals, I hope some context can be considered: How are hospitals contributing to address childcare, housing, workforce, access and economic crises we face? How are hospitals working to prevent violence in their facilities and protect their patients and staff alike? How are hospitals learning from the pandemic and bringing those lessons forward to be even smarter and to offer even greater quality? How are hospitals working to move to value and preventive care?
Alongside community partners, hospitals are actively engaged in dozens of initiatives to address these and other challenges, and we are making steady progress. We are far from the end of the fallout from COVID-19, but our hospitals and our communities are still standing strong. Remember that Vermont led the nation in responding to the worst public health crisis in a century. That was because of our collaborative spirit, science-led approach and mission-based orientation.
This mentality will continue to serve Vermonters well, and position us for constant improvement. I was so proud to read these great stories of leadership because I know there are countless others. Let’s keep working to build each other up. We will all be better for it.