Del Trecco: Hospitals prepared for flooding, collaborated

by Michael Del Trecco, President & CEO, Vermont Association of Hospitals and Health Systems As I followed the news since the arrival of a dangerous storm and subsequent historic flooding throughout the state, I was profoundly moved by the rescue crews who plucked their neighbors from harm’s way and the many ordinary Vermonters who clamored to volunteer to help—even before the waters receded. It’s during times like this that I’m most proud to be a Vermonter.

Of course, as in any emergency, there were acts of defiant dedication that inspire and remind us of our shared compassion and resilience—the home health nurse who strapped her stethoscope and sphygmomanometer on the back of her mountain bike to circumvent impassable roads was pretty darn courageous. One nurse reportedly drove to pick up a patient in need of treatment who was unable to get to the facility. One hospital housed individuals overnight who came to the emergency department for shelter or because they were worried about their oxygen running out. Staff slept in hallways or waiting areas to rest between shifts and cover for colleagues who could not make it through the devastation. 

Even before the first raindrop fell, our hospitals had begun the process of planning and collaboration as they always do. They communicated among their ranks about how they could work together to be sure all Vermonters would get the care they needed and planned for emergency response centers and transportation alternatives. 

And as the damages from the storm became apparent, hospitals solved each problem as it arose. Hospitals offered to help bring water to other facilities in need, to help transport patients, to share staff to get services back up and running. This is what we do as Vermonters and this is what we do as health care leaders.

As I told a reporter during a recent interview with Becker’s, the last week absolutely challenged our hospitals. Despite their commitment to doing their jobs, some hospital employees found that road closures and other dangerous conditions affected their ability to get to work—some saw unimaginable damage to their homes and property. But through it all, they worked together to ensure care for Vermonters.

I also told Becker’s that the nature of Vermont hospitals combines with the courageous, loving spirit of Vermonters to make such collaboration possible. All of Vermont's 14 hospitals are nonprofit — and the nature of organizations who are driven solely by mission has streamlined communication and collaboration during this time to reopen closed services as quickly as possible and provide the state with the care it deserves.

We still have a lot to do to fully understand the scope of damage and begin the long recovery from the storm. Whether it’s a global health crisis like COVID-19 or the horrors of a natural disaster like these floods, one thing is beautifully clear in Vermont: our hospitals remain at the heart of community collaboration. They are dependable safe havens when the storm rages outside their walls. Our people give selflessly and ask little in return, placing the needs of patients and teammates before their own. We are reminded once again that our hospitals, their staff and the people they care for are #vermontstrong always. I have no doubt we’ve got this. 

Thanks for reading and have a great week.

P.S. I am relieved to report the VAHHS team is safe and well. I hope the same can be said for all of you and your teams. Thanks to those who checked in on us.