The last three years have taken a significant toll on rural healthcare in Vermont. To help reverse those effects, members of Vermont’s delegation along with the United States Department of Agriculture presented two local hospitals with a hefty lump sum.
“Our healthcare centers have moved from an urgent crisis and an emergency situation to an enduring emergency,” said Sarah Waring, Vermont’s State Director for Rural Development within the USDA.
To help course correct, the USDA is awarding and loaning a combined $28 million to both the Northeastern Vermont Regional Hospital and Copley Hospital, by way of the American Rescue Plan Act. Senator Peter Welch, D-Vermont, says it’s just a piece of the reconstructive puzzle.
“As tough as it is in Washington D.C. to get some funds to come back here to help the hospital…the hard work is the implementation,” Welch said.
With the funds, Copley Hospital will purchase land and build a new orthopedic office in Waterbury. NVRH will overhaul the center’s laboratory, pharmacy and behavioral health and emergency departments. They hope to increase the number of beds and lessen wait times.
“The emergency department was really designed to see 25 to 30 patients a day, we are now routinely seeing between 40 to 50 patients a day,” said Shawn Tester, the president and CEO of NVRH.
Even with the funding, Tester says Vermont’s aging demographic and lack of affordable housing and childcare still represent barriers for healthcare centers like his. Members of the Biden administration, including Under Secretary for Rural Development Xochitl Torres Small, say they are nationwide issues that require innovative solutions.
“We’ve seen partnerships with hospitals where hospitals will help fund daycare that we also helped fund,” Torres Small said.
The centers are going to submit their certificate of need to the green mountain care board in the coming weeks, and hope to start construction in the next six to nine months. The length of the project is estimated to be at least three years.