Daily Archives: November 24, 2021

The Health Care Crisis is Already Here

Did you know that the Scott administration Covid policy isn’t aimed at reducing illness? Nope, they don’t care about that. The governor himself has said, over and over, that his goal is to prevent Vermont’s health care system from being overwhelmed. As long as the caseload is manageable, he’s fine.

Well, yeah, he’s fine.

But there’s a problem with that “set the bar low and jump over it” policy goal. It’s already failing. The health care system is already in crisis. It just hasn’t completely blown up yet.

And that’s only because of heroic and unsustainable efforts by health care workers and staff. The administration is desperately trying to patch things together and prevent a total blowup, and that’s all it cares about. Human Services Secretary Mike Smith has taken to giving weekly updates on efforts to add more subacute inpatient beds (to hustle patients out of the hospital as quickly as possible) and ICU beds — and the state is paying God knows how much to staff those extra beds.

I’ve also heard that the University of Vermont Medical Center is relying heavily on temporary nurses because it’s so short-staffed. If that’s the case at our crown jewel, imagine what’s happening in smaller facilities. Temporary nurses are in such high demand that they can almost write their own tickets, and the temp-staff agencies are making out like bandits. (Those agencies charge up to 100% of the staffer’s salary.)

The administration is willing to do anything, at any cost, because they don’t want to see Covid patients parked in emergency rooms or triaged for lack of resources. It’s not about quality of care of public health, it’s about avoiding a PR nightmare.

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Who’s Playing Politics Now?

When, in my previous post I chronicled the ways in which Gov. Phil Scott has demonstrably been Not a Nice Guy, I omitted at least one: How passive-aggressive, how positively pissy he gets when answering his critics. That trait was on full display at this week’s Covid-19 press briefing. (Available on YouTube, in case that 10-hour Norwegian train video is too much for your blood pressure.)

Otherwise, the briefing was another dismal affair. The statistics don’t look good, and Scott had to acknowledge that they’re about to get worse because of the Thanksgiving holiday. For a week or two, he said. Which, he did not add, gets us to the year-end holidays, office parties and family gatherings, which means we can’t realistically expect any improvement in the numbers until at least mid-January.

In other happy tidings, Scott was asked how many Vermonters were still vulnerable to infection because they were unvaccinated or hadn’t gained a measure of immunity through contracting Covid. He admitted to asking the same question himself. “I kept wondering how much wood is left to fuel this fire,” he said, “and the answer was higher than I expected.”

Health Commissioner Dr. Mark Levine filled in the specifics: About 50,000 unvaccinated adults, about half of the 44,000 kids between ages 5-11, plus children under age 5 who can’t be vaccinated yet. “There still is, as the governor kind of alluded to, plenty of fresh, uninfected people who have never been vaccinated that this virus can still find. And it is very adept at finding them,” Levine said.

Hm. Whatever you think about metaphorically comparing vulnerable Vermonters to firewood or fresh meat, that’s an admission that Scott’s vaccinate-first, vaccinate-always strategery was kind of doomed from the beginning. We are, to his credit, at the top of the national rankings in vaccinations… and yet, here we are with plenty of “wood” to burn and a growing pile of case counts, hospitalizations and deaths.

Wood, pile? See what I di… never mind. Back to Pissy Phil.

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