On September 8, 2021

State widens its inquiry into medical appointment wait times

Days after the Vermont Agency of Human Services announced it would investigate wait times for medical appointments at the state’s health care organizations, other regulators are joining the fray, according to a press release distributed by the agency on Friday.

The Green Mountain Care Board, an independent organization that regulates health systems, and the Dept. of Financial Regulation, which protects consumers and regulates industries, will join the investigation, according to the announcement. Ena Backus, the director of health care reform at the Agency of Human Services, is slated to lead and coordinate the effort.

In the press release, Mike Smith, secretary of the Agency of Human Services, emphasized the importance of timely access to medical appointments.

“We are not trying to punish organizations,” he said. “We really do want to understand the challenges across the system and help identify ways to remove the barriers.”

Seven Days earlier this week reported that some patients of the Burlington-based University of Vermont Medical Center, the largest hospital in University of Vermont Health Network, have been waiting for outpatient specialist appointments for weeks and sometimes months.

After the piece was published Wednesday, the state Agency of Human Services said it would investigate wait times for medical appointments, though it did not mention the medical center by name.

University of Vermont Health Network CEO John Brumsted on Wednesday attributed wait times to pandemic-related pressures, including system-wide staff shortages. Brumsted vowed to address these issues, but said the health system would need outside help from the state to fully address the problem.

The network welcomes an investigation, he said.

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