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Letters to the Editor (9/22/21)


Published September 22, 2021 at 10:00 a.m.

Frustrating Response

[Re Feedback: "UVM Medical Center Responds," September 8]: The University of Vermont Medical Center response to ["The Doctor Won't See You Now," September 1] is so frustrating. In his letter to the editor, president and CEO John Brumsted blames the backlog on the pandemic. However, over the past 21 years in private practice as a psychotherapist, I have had many clients or their family members who have had incredibly long wait times for treatment for serious medical conditions or for diagnostic testing. Vermont hospitals have ignored the crises in health care here for far too long. My question is: Why did it take so long for the Green Mountain Care Board to become aware of this problem that everyone else knew about years ago?

Luanne Sberna


Brumsted's Pay

[Re "The Doctor Won't See You Now," September 1]: Seven Days' coverage of wait times at the University of Vermont Medical Center left me horrified by the misery and frustration of the many patients unable to get health care when it was urgently needed. It seems that this horror story results, in large part, from seriously misplaced priorities.

Consider: A 90-year-old woman committed suicide after a lengthy delay in treatment for an immensely painful condition. The most recent UVM Medical Center tax return publicly available shows that Dr. John Brumsted, president and CEO of the medical center, was compensated $2,005,831 per year for a 50-hour workweek in 2019.

A 27-year-old man lost work time, vomited "every night" from pain and paid thousands of dollars for ER visits while awaiting an appointment. Dr. Brumsted's 2019 compensation works out to about $771 per hour.

After waiting two months to even get a call to schedule a distant appointment, a 79-year-old man went elsewhere and was diagnosed with metastatic prostate cancer. Dr. Brumsted's 2019 salary works out to about $38,000 per week.

Understaffing causes wait times. Note that Brumsted's 2019 salary alone could fund 48.4 new employees paid $20 per hour. And UVM Medical Center has many other executives earning six-figure salaries. These executive salaries are funded from ever-increasing fees and insurance premiums paid by ordinary Vermonters, many working more than one job.

Every organization displays its priorities — its values — in its salary structure. These priorities need to be a big part of any debate about fixing health care in Vermont.

Lee Russ


Look to Europe...

[Re "The Doctor Won't See You Now," September 1]: Waiting for 10 months? Of course, that's outrageous when it comes to health care, but it shouldn't be a surprise. Our country as a whole has the disease, and it won't be cured with natural foods or lotus positions or seven social workers posing as therapists. Recently, I had a short debate with a senior wearing an American flag over his mouth. He lectured me on the bureaucracy of the European health care system, arguing that if it does work, "It's because they're small countries."

If we had the political will and budgets, each state could give us government-supported health care. If all our small states did that, our "big country" would have decent coverage for all. Naturally, the feds would have to contribute.

"Oh, but people would have to pay taxes for that!" Hmm. "And that's socialism!"

Wait until that small lump gets bigger, and then go to the emergency room when the pain gets unbearable. Don't worry, the taxpayer will pay for that. Shortsighted? You betcha.

Tom MacDonald


Nonprofit Check

In [From the Publisher: "Worth the Wait?" September 1], Paula Routly wrote, "These nonprofit organizations are supposed to be accountable to the public, but they are acting like private corporations with something to hide." That is a bias, not a reality. I've been employed on both sides. I think the moral, public-service accountability differences between profit and nonprofit organizations are razor thin. Nonprofits hold themselves out to be morally superior, but it's just not true.

In both cases, management is mostly motivated by avoiding embarrassment. Public be damned, stockholders be damned; it is the egos of the managers that matter most.

Dick Mills


Isn't It a Victory

Isn't it a victory not to have to

claim victory?

To sit by the new fountain

on the green, in the middle

of town. On one of the bright 

Adirondack chairs, donated,

I'm hoping, by a citizen known

for her endless generosity.

For meeting refugees at our small

international airport.

Welcoming a few to her mountain

home. Feeding them their first

meal in this country of ours.

Before, I'm afraid, they have to 

strike out on their own.

Learn enough words to carry them

past fall to winter.

When the trees will appear

more familiar. 

When the caves we have here 

will call to them, too.

To come in, for a few hours,

a few days of refuge.

To chant. To sing prayers.

To enter into their new lives

with grief and thanksgiving.

With enough regret and memory

to last a lifetime.

As the leaves weave crowns.

Snow diamonds their hair. 

Gary Margolis


Reading in AZ

[Re Off Message: "CVU Student Goes Viral After Flipping Off Anti-Mask Protesters," September 6]: I am in Arizona, where almost all of our independent newspapers are gone. But the girl flipping off anti-vaxxers brought me to your rag, and you guys are doing it very, very well. I never send praise but got much enjoyment reading every article in this issue! Thanks.

Kevin Lake

Tempe, AZ

Vaccines for All

[Re Off Message: "A Pandemic Semester Looms, but the Outlook Has Changed," August 24]: Vermont has done a great job with its handling of the COVID-19 pandemic. I was proud to be a Vermonter when I received a notification from CNN about our highest-in-the-nation vaccination rates. I urge those who remain unvaccinated to heed the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's recommendations and get vaccinated. It is a privilege to have the opportunity to be vaccinated.

At the current rate of the global COVID-19 vaccine rollout, low-income countries may not receive the vaccine for years to come. Sharing excess vaccine doses and providing additional resources with countries in the greatest need is vital to limit the spread of more COVID-19 variants and the extending detrimental effects of the pandemic. The looming specter of the Delta variant highlights the urgency of the situation. Slow global vaccine rollout will only result in more variants and more lives lost unnecessarily.

As U.S. Rep. Peter Welch wrote in an email, "Congress has a responsibility to help communities at home and abroad fight the COVID-19 pandemic."

The United States spends 1 percent of its budget on international assistance. It is my view that the wealthiest country in the world can and should contribute more resources to the global fight against COVID-19. It is imperative that Congress support international assistance funding in subsequent COVID-19 relief packages, as well as the sharing of excess vaccine doses through the World Health Organization's COVAX initiative.

Tim Lyons

East Hardwick

False Security

[Re Off Message: "Feds Investigate Three Vermont Troopers in Fake Vaccination Card Probe," September 7]: The troopers who police our land swear to testify true on the stand, but their claimed vaccination's complete fabrication. Their arrogance is out of hand. 

Cindy Hill


Vax Legislators

[Re Off Message: "Scott Imposes a New Vaccination Mandate for 8,000 State Workers," September 8]: Why are the legislature and the judiciary exempt from this vaccine mandate? Are they not also state employees? I would like the logic, if there is any, of this decision explained to us. They should be included in the mandate; what's important for one is important for all.

I also agree that those entering state office buildings should be required to be masked, regardless of vaccine status. We need to take this virus seriously.

Maggie York


York is a Vermont state employee.

Whose Wildlife?

I wish I were surprised to read that the head of Vermont's Agency of Natural Resources failed to protect endangered bats from pesticides meant to kill mosquitoes [Off Message: "Vermont Fails to Protect Bats From Pesticides, Suit Claims," August 16]. As president of a Vermont wildlife protection nonprofit that's had to rely on both the head of ANR and the head of the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department to do the right thing not only by wildlife but also by the public that they're obligated to serve, the bat story is just another huge disappointment.

When they have an agenda — as in this case of not requiring permits to spray toxins that are killing bats — no amount of peer-reviewed science, advice from experts on their own Endangered Species Committee, etc., will make a difference. Too often, dangerous special interests are at play when it comes to policy decisions. Not much different from what we see out West with the massacre of the endangered gray wolf to placate ranchers and predator haters.

On a daily basis I ask myself, Why am I forced to go to battle with the very agency heads, Louis Porter and Julie Moore, who are supposed to be doing the right thing by our natural "resources"? Gov. Phil Scott is also part of the problem. Wildlife is facing the sixth mass extinction, and it's business as usual for these leaders. I encourage the public to get involved, pay attention and contact your legislators — wildlife only has us.

Brenna Galdenzi


Galdenzi is the founder and president of Protect Our Wildlife Vermont.

BDS Is Antisemitic

[Re Off Message: "At Heated Meeting, Burlington City Council Withdraws BDS Resolution," September 14]: Do cities need foreign policies? Should they incite heated citizen strife by wading into highly controversial areas, lacking either knowledge or experience? Why divert time, money and energy needed to address pressing municipal matters in pursuit of such divisive debates?

The Vermonters for Justice in Palestine's Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions resolution is totally misbegotten, misguided and misleading, symptomatic of those activists' inflamed hatred against Israel. BDS is not about ending Israel's nonexistent "occupation," nor about "fighting for human rights, justice or peace." It is about weaponizing and mainstreaming toxic, intrinsically antisemitic defamation. Whenever such resolutions are debated, on campus or in councils, such pernicious poison is prodigiously spread.

In all the concerns for Palestinian rights, there are never any about Palestinian actions. Their credibility is never questioned. There's no mention of the fact that, in May, Hamas indiscriminately showered 4,300 rockets against Israeli cities, nor of routine abuse by Hamas and Palestinian Authority of the rights of their own people. How can activists square their search for peace with Palestinian leaders' refusal to even negotiate — or their repeated raging against any "normalization" with the "enemy"?

How oppressed are Israeli Arabs? Any prospect of transfer to a Palestinian state horrifies the 300,000 Galilee Triangle Arabs. They wouldn't have to move, only change nationality, but they desperately resist. Surely that speaks volumes about their much better life as Israelis, compared with their likely lot in a Palestinian dystopia.

Richard Wilkins

Syracuse, N.Y.

Choose Casella

John Casella's ad "The Freedom to Choose" [page 10, September 8] was very informative and expressed my concerns with the City of Burlington taking over trash removal.

We at Redrock Condominiums use Casella Waste Systems for our trash and compost pickup. Their service is excellent — dependable and reasonably priced at approximately $4 per week. Most important to me is the fact that they pick up on Mondays when we have a holiday. The City of Burlington does not work on holidays, so our recycling sits for another week. I would not want my trash and compost to sit for another week, as it would smell and invite raccoons.

We have all seen our real estate taxes go up this year, and we don't need another big expenditure to add to our burden going forward. Our city council needs to concentrate on the hole in the city center and on encouraging business. Don't make it harder for this important revenue-producing sector of our city economy to survive.

Stephanie Herrick