Featured Story

NMC Has Stabilized, is Getting Stronger

(SAM 10/21/22) People ask, “how is NMC doing?” understanding that a rural hospital is an important community resource for quality healthcare and quality employment. As NMC’s Chief Operating Officer and interim Chief Executive Officer, I appreciate this opportunity to update you on how the NMC team is doing. NMC has stabilized and we are getting stronger. I continue to be remarkably proud of the care and dedication of the NMC team.

We are busy: We continue to experience nearly unprecedented volumes of inpatients, often pushing the limits of our 34-bed Progressive Care Unit. We are seeing continued high volumes of patients in the Emergency Department. Like other hospitals, this means longer wait times and delays in admitting patients. How can you help? Use the Emergency Department for your emergent medical needs – that is the ED’s purpose. Use Primary Care for your ongoing and non-emergent medical needs. If you need to be seen faster than Primary Care can accommodate, consider Urgent Care. For help finding a Primary Care provider, call NMC Community Relations at (802) 524-1280.

We are still impacted by COVID: These high volumes are not primarily COVID driven (typically 2-4 of our 34 inpatients are COVID positive). Still, care remains COVID complicated. Like other businesses and healthcare providers, we continue to see frequent callouts among our staff due to COVID hitting their households. That means departments and practices are caring for patients with less staff than were scheduled. How can you help? Please mask at all times when at NMC as a patient or visitor. Continue to mask in crowded public settings; get vaccinated and boosted; pay close attention to hand hygiene; and stay home when you have symptoms.

We are actively retaining and recruiting staff: We recently moved our pay ranges to align with the market based on a very comprehensive compensation study. We are having early success in hiring back NMC alumni who had left to become “travelers” or take positions at other places. That is very encouraging. We have clinical and non-clinical openings – RN’s, LPN’s, LNA’s, Housekeepers, Kitchen Staff, and more, including entry level positions. There are sign-on bonuses in play and retention bonuses in place. We are exploring new training programs and partnerships to help people join NMC. How can you help? If you or someone you know, is curious about working at NMC, visit the Careers page on our website and call (802) 524-8453 to connect with one of our HR Advisors.

We are focused on four keys to success: Safety, Quality, Empathy, and Respect. We are moving beyond ‘how we have done it’ to pursue and embrace best practice and quality improvement. We have a new Chief Nursing Executive, a new Chief People Officer, and a new Patient Family Advisory Council who are great compliments to our emphasis on High Reliability and Lead Daily Management. We are improving our quality metrics; launching work on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion; and expanding our abilities through new partnerships. This kind of transformation takes time, yet it is already making a difference. How can you help? Keep an eye out for more communication about progress and enhancements.

We are more stable. NMC has made great progress on financial sustainability. In the fiscal year that ended September 30, NMC met our budgeted revenue target. We also stayed within our budgeted expenses, except for the extra cost of needing to staff with Travelers (just like other hospitals). Because of the necessity of staffing with Travelers to meet community need for care, we ended the year with a 2% loss. That is not where we need to be, yet it is meaningfully better than where we were 5 years ago and 3 years ago. For the current fiscal year, NMC was approved for one of the lower rate increases and is proceeding with a very narrow, yet positive 1% operating margin. How can you help? Keeping care local is key to maintaining local care, so we appreciate every patient who chooses to entrust our team with their care.

We are recruiting a new CEO: There has been strong response to NMC’s opening for a new CEO after Dr. Dean French was recruited away to help lead ScionHealth, an 80-hospital national healthcare system. Our new leader will help us continue forward as an independent hospital focused on safety and quality. Interviews are ongoing with the Search Committee, and we expect to be conducting finalist interviews in November.

We are grateful for the team. The people on our team are remarkable. They are tired and have done so much in the past six, twelve, and twenty-four months. They continue to press to meet community need and care for every person who comes to us. They are sharing suggestions and helping in improvement efforts. They are pausing for a moment of joy with giant Jenga in the hallway and taking care of one another. They have our, and my, full respect and sincere thanks for all they do. How can you help? Be kind to the NMC staff. Refrain from being rude or threatening to them. We know circumstances can be stressful and appreciate your patience as we work to care for you and your loved ones.

NMC been a part of this community, caring for the people in northwestern Vermont, since 1883. We are improving and expanding our care and service to meet community need. We have taken on that challenge. The trust our patients and the community put in us means the world to us. Thank you.

Jonathan Billings,

NMC Chief Operating Officer & interim CEO

OP-ED, St. Albans Messenger, 10/21/22