State regulators will hold two virtual public forums to assess the impact of lengthy wait times for medical care on Vermonters.
The listening sessions are scheduled to take place this Wednesday, October 27, and Thursday, November 4. The events are part of the state’s investigation following a Seven Days cover story in early September that found patients sometimes have to wait up to a year to be seen by specialists within the University of Vermont Health Network.
The task force, which consists of officials from the Agency of Human Services, the Green Mountain Care Board, the Department of Financial Regulation and the Office of the Health Care Advocate, has been meeting regularly to determine how to reduce wait times and improve health care access across the state. The task force tentatively plans to submit its recommendations to the legislature in January.
Earlier this month, the University of Vermont Health Network, the state’s largest health care provider, announced its own plan to reduce wait times across its system, which includes three hospitals and nine primary and specialty care practices in Vermont. According to CEO John Brumsted, the health network plans to address the longstanding staffing issues that have exacerbated wait times by stepping up recruitment and retention efforts, ensuring competitive compensation levels for current employees and working with developers to create more affordable housing.
The goal of the public forums is to help the task force identify the points where access to medical care breaks down, according to Kevin Mullin, chair of the Green Mountain Care Board, which regulates the state's health care system.
For instance, driving distance can present an obstacle for those who live far from health care providers. Other providers, Mullin said, might better serve their patients by improving the appointment scheduling system.
"We're still in the problem-defining and quantifying stage," Mullin explained. "Unfortunately, this process doesn't move as fast as we all would like it to."