U of Vermont employees oppose new ASC amid staff shortage: 8 things to know

Employees of the University of Vermont Medical Center in Burlington are opposing a proposed ASC as the hospital faces staffing challenges, Seven Days reported Sept. 18.

The medical center filed a conceptual certificate-of-need application for the ASC in July, to replace operating rooms that were closed in November because of air quality issues. UVM Medical Center President and COO Stephen Leffler, MD, said the ASC would help the hospital modernize practices and solve surgical backlogs.

Here are eight things to know about the opposition:

  1. The Vermont Federation of Nurses & Health Professionals, which represents 2,400 of the hospital's staff members, reportedly wrote to the Green Mountain Care Board Sept. 13 questioning the opening of a new surgical facility when the medical center is “unable and unwilling” to staff existing operations.
  2. The union said the hospital has more than 300 union job vacancies and that the hospital will be forced to operate with "less than adequate staffing," which could lead to medical errors.
  3. The hospital is reportedly filling staffing needs with traveling nurses. A spokesperson told Seven Days that traveling nurses could cost the hospital about $40 million this fiscal year. Dr. Leffler said he hopes to hire more permanent staff at the hospital, but national workforce shortages can complicate this plan.
  4. The union's president, Deb Snell, asked that the group be able to weigh in on the project before the board decides whether the hospital can move forward with the ASC project. She also asked the board to hold a public meeting where the medical center can "make public commitments about its staffing and operational plans."
  5. The union's letter came just before a petition deadline that would have allowed the hospital to forgo public hearings and expedite the review process for the ASC.
  6. If the hospital's certificate of need is approved, it will only be allowed to plan the ASC. It will need to file a separate certificate of need to begin its construction.
  7. Dr. Leffler told Seven Days that he is also concerned about maintaining the hospital's staffing levels and said the next certificate of need would address staffing and the hospital looks forward to receiving employee input as part of the process.
  8. The Green Mountain Care Board must issue a decision by Sept. 25.

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