The interim president and CEO of the Vermont Association of Hospitals and Health Systems (VAHHS) released a statement Monday urging the Green Mountain Care Board to approve stabilization budgets to help hospitals withstand nearly full bed capacity, skyrocketing costs, staff shortages and more.
It’s that time of year for non-profit hospitals to present budgets to the Green Mountain Care Board for the next fiscal year, and VAHHS is urging GMCB to approve “stabilization budgets” as submitted. The budgets are being evaluated at a time of uncertainty in health care.
“It is essential to our health care system that these budgets be approved as submitted,” Mike Del Trecco wrote in a statement. “I have been working in health care for my entire career and I have never seen a set of circumstances so complex and severe — this is not normal.”
Del Trecco lists six points that are the most concerning new trends health care is facing. They include personnel shortages, inflation and supply chain shortages, placement delays (meaning patients stay longer than necessary), new viruses like COVID and monkeypox, and violent attacks by patients — all this while facilities are operating at nearly full capacity continuously, around 93-to-96%.
“We face a workforce challenge like never before,” said Del Trecco, who notes that 65% of hospital budgets go towards workforce and building operations. “Hospitals operate 24/7 and 365 days a year and we cannot close if things are too expensive or for lack of personnel.”
Like every other industry, inflation and supply chain troubles also plague the health care industry.
“We are experiencing unprecedented inflation and supply chain issues that are contributing to skyrocketing costs; over 30% of these budgets goes toward purchasing medical and surgical supplies and pharmaceuticals to care for patients,” Del Trecco said.
As an example of the stress hospitals are facing, he cites a mental health and long-term care delivery system that “drives up costs as patients are stuck in hospitals even when they don’t need to be there.”
“Just yesterday, we had 125 patients waiting for placement and over the last three weeks this number was between 105 and 138. Again, this is not a one-time occurrence,” Del Trecco said.
He added that caregivers are experiencing “violent acts against them daily,” making matters worse.
As a result, Vermont’s health care industry is expected to see the largest budget increase requests in more than a decade.
“Our workforce is exhausted, our communities are challenged and for the current fiscal year most of our Vermont hospitals are reporting losses. Operating with budgets lower that those submitted will jeopardize services and challenge the investments that are necessary to run our hospitals and care for our communities,” Del Trecco said.