Did Senator Sanders’ Staff Visit NMC while they were in town?

Yes.  Vermont is fortunate to have strong access to our elected officials at the local, State, and Federal levels.  As part of our ongoing work with those who represent our community, NMC recently hosted three members of Senator Sander’s staff.  They were working to learn more about trends in Vermont by connecting directly with people and organizations involved in key issues and asked if they could spend some time with members of the NMC team and tour our facility.

We appreciate their attention as healthcare reform efforts continue towards a possible “all payer waiver” to shift our healthcare system from the traditional “fee for service” (where physicians and hospitals and other providers are paid each time they see a patient) to a form of “population health” (where providers would be paid to keep a population well).  As a fundamental shift of this size is considered, an in-depth appreciation of the challenges being faced in our community, in doctors’ offices, and at the bedside is crucial.  This opportunity to talk to Senator Sanders’ staff offered us a chance to impress upon them that “the big blue H” on the interstate that used to stand for “hospital” now stands more for center of “health” and that we are working to improve the health and wellness of our community.

Jill Torrey, NMC’s Director of Physician Services responsible for Northwestern Comprehensive Pain, provided insight into our community’s collaborative approach to addiction services.  She highlighted the collaboration between NMC, Northwestern Counseling, the Howard Center, Turning Point, Primary Care providers, law enforcement, and other community partners to better meet community need in a multi-faceted way and our efforts to recruit additional addiction specialists. Senator Sanders’ staff was particularly interested in the challenges of recruiting given the shortage of certain specialties and I was able to explain that shrinking reimbursements and uncertainties within Vermont’s reform efforts add to our challenges.

Senator Sanders is currently looking into the rising cost of generic drug prices and NMC Interim Pharmacy Manager Jeff Firlik was able to speak to the impact here in our community.  He provided the staff members with a list of medications whose cost to the hospital has gone up from 85% to 400% in the past year.  That is simply unsustainable and we appreciate the Senator’s attention to this issue. 

Senator Sanders has also been interested in NMC’s efforts to reduce avoidable visits to the Emergency Department by helping people understand the importance of establishing an ongoing relationship with a Primary Care provider, establishing Northwestern Urgent Care on NMC’s campus in St. Albans and in Georgia, and by connecting with the proper care provider, often dental or mental health.  Dr. John Minadeo, the Medical Director of NMC’s ED, shared that we have successfully reduced our avoidable visits and are strengthening case management services within the ED to help ensure patients get the follow-up they need.  

It was a dynamic conversation as we hit on many additional topics, some of which we discussed while touring.  We touched on the exciting wellness and prevention work being done through the Community Committee on Healthy Lifestyles, RiseVT, and Northwestern Lifestyle Medicine.  We discussed our Master Facility Plan to improve our healing environment and improve access.  We celebrated our staff’s work with the Medical Staff and community partners that resulted in the largest quality of care improvement within OneCare Accountable Care Organization’s first year.  We mentioned our ongoing partnership work with NOTCH, the University of Vermont Medical Center, and other providers and community organizations. 

I appreciate Senator Sanders’ support for quality healthcare and his staff taking the time to learn more about what is happening in our community.  Working together with our elected officials at all levels of government, we can make meaningful improvements in our healthcare system and ultimately improve the health and wellness of our community.

— Jill Berry Bowen, NMC’s Chief Executive Officer