Health | Off Message | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

Health

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Gobeille Addresses Prison Health Care Spending Concerns

Posted By on Tue, Oct 2, 2018 at 6:33 PM

Secretary of Human Services Al Gobeille - FILE: JEB WALLACE-BRODEUR
  • File: Jeb Wallace-Brodeur
  • Secretary of Human Services Al Gobeille
Vermont Secretary of Human Services Al Gobeille is defending the state’s contract with a private prison health care provider after lawmakers and advocates expressed concerns.

At a September 20 legislative hearing, Vermont's chief health care advocate, Michael Fisher, questioned what had happened to $2.2 million that the state paid the contractor, Centurion, in fiscal year 2017. Lawmakers got the impression that Centurion had pocketed the money as profit, which Department of Corrections officials in the room didn't dispute.

But that was not the case, according to Gobeille. The secretary wasn’t at the hearing, but he later told lawmakers that Centurion spent the $2.2 million on other health care expenses. “There’s no missing money,” he said. “I don’t want anyone to think that we paid for a bunch of pharmaceuticals that never got used.”

Fisher raised the money issue while discussing a lack of hepatitis C treatment in Vermont prisons. “Our chief concern is that inmates are getting the care that they need,” Fisher said. Gobeille’s explanation “doesn’t satisfy the concern.”

Centurion did retain about $450,000 in profit in 2017 and received about $2 million to cover corporate overhead costs, according to Gobeille. In the context of the roughly $20 million contract, “I don’t think that’s exorbitant by any respect,” he said.

Continue reading »

Tags: , , , , ,

Friday, September 28, 2018

UVM Medical Center Nurses Ratify Three-Year Contract

Posted By on Fri, Sep 28, 2018 at 10:31 AM

Lead negotiator Molly Wallner, right - MARK DAVIS
  • Mark Davis
  • Lead negotiator Molly Wallner, right
University of Vermont Medical Center nurses have ratified a three-year contract that ends a testy labor dispute, their union and the hospital announced Friday morning.

"This has been a long and difficult road for all of us, and we are extremely proud of what we have accomplished," said Molly Wallner, lead negotiator for the Vermont Federation of Nurses and Health Professionals. "We have shown the hospital, our community, and ourselves what we are capable of. "

The agreement gives nurses a 16 percent salary increase over the next three years. Some nurses will get raises of up to 30 percent.

Roughly 1,100 of the 1,800 nurses in the union cast votes, Wallner said, and 70 percent of them favored ratification. Negotiators had reached a tentative agreement on September 19.

Continue reading »

Tags: , , , , , ,

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Few Vermont Inmates Receive Hepatitis C Treatment

Posted By on Thu, Sep 20, 2018 at 11:32 AM

MATT MORRIS
  • Matt Morris
In August, 250 inmates in Vermont prisons had hepatitis C, but just eight of them received treatment for the infectious, potentially deadly virus that can damage the liver. The number of those treated is actually an increase over 2017, when the Vermont Department of Corrections appears to have provided hepatitis C medication to just one inmate, according to its own data.

The state’s chief health care advocate, Michael Fisher called the statistics “very, very concerning.”

Fisher was part of a coalition of organizations that successfully pushed the state’s Medicaid health insurance program to start paying this year for hepatitis C medication for patients who don’t yet have liver damage.

Now advocates are turning their attention to Vermont’s prisons, where alarmingly few inmates are receiving the antiviral drugs that can cure hepatitis C, according to Fisher.

Continue reading »

Tags: , , , , , , ,

UVM Medical Center, Nurses Reach Tentative Contract Agreement

Posted By on Thu, Sep 20, 2018 at 7:38 AM

Nurses and supporters rallying this summer - FILE: SARA TABIN
  • File: Sara Tabin
  • Nurses and supporters rallying this summer
The University of Vermont Medical Center and its nurses' union have reached a tentative contract agreement after months of failed negotiations, the parties announced late Wednesday.

UVM Medical Center said the agreement with the Vermont Federation of Nurses and Health Professionals is a three-year contract that includes a 16 percent average base salary increase. The union, in turn, agreed to eliminate proposed increases to certain shift differentials. Pay increases for ambulatory nurses will be retroactive to the first full pay period in September, the hospital said.

"We believe this agreement provides meaningful wage increases and allows us to maintain our commitment to all employees and be responsible stewards of limited health care dollars," hospital spokesman Michael Carrese said.

Continue reading »

Tags: , , , ,

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Health Department Cautions Drug Users After Spate of Overdoses

Posted By on Wed, Sep 12, 2018 at 3:30 PM

A kit with the overdose-reversing drug Narcan - COURTESY DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH
  • Courtesy Department of Health
  • A kit with the overdose-reversing drug Narcan
The state Health Department is urging drug users to take precautions, including keeping the overdose-reversing drug Narcan on hand, after a spate of "several" fatal overdoses in Rutland County and other non-fatal incidents across the state.

The department declined to give specific numbers, citing pending autopsies, but said it believes most of the overdoses are tied to fentanyl, a synthetic opiate many times more powerful than heroin.

In 2017, two-thirds of opiate overdose deaths involved fentanyl, and the number of fatal overdoses involving fentanyl has nearly quadrupled since 2014.

The Health Department says it is concerned that the synthetic opioid is now being mixed with other drugs, including cocaine.

Continue reading »

Tags: , , , , , ,

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Nurses Keep Up the Pressure as Hospital Seeks Budget Approval

Posted By on Wed, Aug 22, 2018 at 1:26 PM

Nurses protesting at City Hall - KATIE JICKLING
  • Katie Jickling
  • Nurses protesting at City Hall
A majority of the University of Vermont Medical Center's nurses didn't attend the Green Mountain Care Board meeting in Burlington on Wednesday, but those there managed to make their voices heard.

The crowd on Church Street, dressed in red and armed with signs and bullhorns, urged the hospital to offer its nurses better wages and increased staffing levels.

Their chants filtered into Burlington City Hall's Contois Auditorium, where the state's hospital oversight board would be tasked with reviewing, and eventually approving, the medical center's fiscal year 2019 budget.

At 9 a.m., top hospital brass lined up before the Green Mountain Care Board to testify for three hours on the institution's finances and plans for the future. But foremost in the officials' minds was the nurses, who have urged the board not to approve the budget until the sides agree on a contract.

Continue reading »

Tags: , , , , , ,

Monday, July 30, 2018

University of Vermont Medical Center Stops Collecting Nurses' Union Dues

Posted By on Mon, Jul 30, 2018 at 6:45 PM

Deb Snell (left) and Julie MacMillan at a press conference with Sen. Bernie Sanders - FILE: SARA TABIN
  • FIle: Sara Tabin
  • Deb Snell (left) and Julie MacMillan at a press conference with Sen. Bernie Sanders
As the University of Vermont Medical Center and its nurses' union hash out a new contract, the sides continue to operate under the terms of the old pact, which expired July 9.

But at least one policy has changed: The hospital no longer collects union dues from nurses' paychecks.

Under the previous three-year contract, the hospital collected dues automatically from members' biweekly paychecks and passed the funds along to the union. That agreement became "null and void" when the contract expired, according to UVM Medical Center spokesman Michael Carrese.

Continue reading »

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Friday, July 27, 2018

High E. Coli Levels Force Closures at Two Burlington Beaches

Posted By on Fri, Jul 27, 2018 at 6:11 PM

Blanchard Beach at Oakledge Park
  • Blanchard Beach at Oakledge Park
Burlington officials closed two city beaches on Lake Champlain Friday after water samples showed high levels of E. coli bacteria.

Red signs at Blanchard Beach in Oakledge Park and Leddy Beach in the city's North End warned visitors against entering the water. The closures came after a combined sewer overflow discharged thousands of gallons of dirty water into the Pine Street Barge Canal during an intense downpour Wednesday night. Authorities said the overflow was 90 percent stormwater "with a small wastewater fraction."

Robert Goulding, public information manager for the Department of Public Works, said the strong storm swept "animal waste, oils and litter" into the water, likely leading to the contamination.

Continue reading »

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Monday, July 16, 2018

Burlington City Council Urges Nurses, Hospital to Settle Their Differences

Posted By on Mon, Jul 16, 2018 at 11:06 PM

Nurses on strike - FILE: SARA TABIN
  • File: Sara Tabin
  • Nurses on strike
Figure it out.

That was the Burlington City Council's message to the University of Vermont Medical Center administrators and nurses who are divided on wages and working conditions.

The council unanimously passed a resolution Monday urging the two sides to find common ground after the nurses' union went on strike for two days last week. The nurses returned to work on Saturday without a contract, but have not yet returned to the bargaining table, much less come to an agreement with the hospital.

The nurses' union could strike again, though it would need to provide a 10-day notice to the hospital.

Continue reading »

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Friday, July 13, 2018

UVM Medical Center Nurses to Return to Work Saturday

Posted By on Fri, Jul 13, 2018 at 8:01 PM

Nurses rallying outside the hospital - SARA TABIN
  • Sara Tabin
  • Nurses rallying outside the hospital
Nurses will start work as usual Saturday morning at the University of Vermont Medical center after a 48-hour strike. But their union has said another strike is not off the table as it remains at odds with the hospital over a three-year contract.

Members of the 1,800-member union walked off the job Thursday complaining that low wages have led to staffing problems. The union is seeking roughly a 23 percent wage increase for registered nurses over three years.

The hospital's chief operating officer, Eileen Whalen, called the union’s request “unrealistic” at a press conference Friday afternoon. Hospital spokesman Michael Carrese said it would cost $30 million over three years.

Meanwhile, the two-day strike cost the hospital about $3 million, according to Whalen. Much of that went to paying for nurses from out of town to cover for the strikers.

Continue reading »

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Recent Comments

Keep up with us Seven Days a week!

Sign up for our fun and informative
newsletters:

All content © 2018 Da Capo Publishing, Inc. 255 So. Champlain St. Ste. 5, Burlington, VT 05401
Website powered by Foundation