by Bruce Edwards, Vermont Business Magazine Seven months after its initial response to COVID-19, Central Vermont Medical Center has made the necessary adjustments and daily life at the county’s largest employer and health care provider has returned to normal.
The hospital, part of the UVM Health Network, also appears to have weathered a cyberattack that hit the UVMHN at the end of October.
Since May, the hospital is back performing elective surgeries, a significant revenue stream, to pre-COVID levels, said CVMC President Anna Noonan. Patient volumes at the hospital’s clinics have returned to normal as well, she said.
“I’m happy to say we rebounded pretty nicely,” Noonan said. “So we’re back to pre-COVID levels in our operating rooms and our practices and in our diagnostic and rehabilitation and therapy services.”
She said in some cases the volumes are higher than last year at this time.
Although business has returned to normal, like the state’s other hospitals CVMC took a financial hit during the early weeks of the pandemic.
Noonan said the hospital moved to tighten its belt and received financial help from the CARES Act.
The belt tightening did not include either layoffs or furloughs for its 1,700 workers.
“I’m glad to say that we were pretty committed to not reducing staff during that time,” she said. “We really focused our efforts on repurposing staff.”
As an example, Noonan said employees at its clinics were reassigned to perform health care screenings.
For the fall, the hospital is prepared to handle a potential surge in COVID or flu cases. “We have a team of senior leaders as well as leaders in other divisions of the organization who still come together weekly to ensure we’re continually ready to meet an increased patient volume,” she said.
Noonan said the hospital also set up a new service to treat people with acute respiratory issues. The acute respiratory clinic on the Barre-Montpelier Road is open seven days a week. The clinic also offers COVID testing and flu shots for the pediatric population.
The Green Mountain Care Board approved a fiscal 2021 budget of $236,081,039, slightly less than what the hospital had proposed.
Noonan said CVMC will make the necessary adjustments to its operations as a result.
Because of the financial ramifications of the pandemic, Noonan said CVMC has put on hold plans for an acute in-patient adult psychiatric facility.
A significant challenge for hospitals in the state is the shortage of nurses. Noonan said the hospital has filled the gap with traveling nurses which are far more costly.
Two years ago CVMC launched two programs to address the problem: a licensed nursing assistant (LNA) program and an LNA to licensed practical nurse (LPN) program.
Noonan said the hospital partnered with Community College of Vermont and Vermont Technical College.
Noonan said 16 enrollees are on track to complete the program to become LPNs.
“The wonderful thing about this program for those individuals who complete the program, for 60 percent of those individuals they’ll be the first ones in their families to complete a college education,” she said.
Bruce Edwards is a freelance writer from Southern Vermont.