Responding to Record and Sustained Patient Care Needs, FEMA Deploys First Responders to UVM Medical Center
Medical Support Team Will Be On Site At Least Through December 31
BURLINGTON – Working in collaboration with the State of Vermont, including the Vermont Department of Health and Vermont Emergency Management, as well as The University of Vermont Medical Center, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) deployed 20 first responders last Friday to Vermont’s Level 1 Trauma Center to aid in pandemic response.
The medical support team that arrived Friday at UVM Medical Center included 10 paramedics and 10 EMTs. Four of those first responders have since been redeployed to other Vermont hospitals, and others have also been in place around the state.
For 14 days, the support staff will work as extenders of care in areas where COVID-19 patients are receiving treatment. They will provide support with basic activities of daily living for patients, performing vital signs, helping with patient mobility – such as turning in bed, getting to a chair, or walking – and providing other non-clinical assistance like ensuring supplies are ready for patients.
By taking on these duties, the team will provide much needed support for UVM Medical Center care team members who have been caring for record numbers of patients for months, many of whom are very sick with COVID-19 or other serious conditions.
“We have been caring for many patients who are very sick with COVID-19 and other illnesses,” said Stephen Leffler, MD, President and Chief Operating Officer of The UVM Medical Center. “We are very thankful that the State of Vermont advocated for these federally funded resources and that we have been able to receive some of the deployment from across the state to shore up critical staffing areas. We deeply appreciate the support, and recognize that these first responders are taking time away from their families during the holidays to provide this much-needed help.”
Members of the FEMA support team will be onsite at least until December 31, 2021. UVM Medical Center leaders will coordinate with the Vermont Department of Health to determine whether the services may need to be extended.
News of the support came two weeks after the UVM Medical Center made the difficult decision to postpone many elective surgeries, to ensure staffing and resources to open five additional ICU beds in space near the operating rooms. Like many hospitals in the state, region and country, UVM Medical Center’s ICU has regularly been more than 90 percent full throughout the fall and early winter months.
For much of 2021, the UVM Medical Center – like health care facilities nationwide – has been under severe strain due to a rapid and sustained increase in demand after patients delayed urgent and routine care in the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic. Patients continue to be sicker when they arrive, requiring more acute care and regularly pushing the limits of ICU capacity. While hospitals around the country have closed beds, UVM Medical Center has worked hard to do the opposite, adding 40 total beds in innovative ways and working with community partners and the state to help discharge patients who no longer require hospitalization.
However, even with the unprecedented level of collaboration and creativity, the realities of limited physical space, staff in higher acuity patients and the increase in COVID-19 cases has required tough decisions and strained resources.
“We made a decision that was best for our community’s health to postpone or delay some, but not all, non-essential surgery,” said Patrick Bender, MD, Chief Quality Officer at The UVM Medical Center. “This allowed us to increase the number of ICU beds at UVM Medical Center. But each decision we make to address the pandemic impacts people – our patients and our staff. This support from FEMA is helping us to manage some of the impact on our people and our patients.”
For information about Vermont’s Covid-19 response, including vaccination, testing and prevention, visit Healthvermont.gov/covid-19.
About the University of Vermont Medical Center
The University of Vermont Medical Center is a 499-bed tertiary care regional referral center providing advanced care to approximately 1 million residents in Vermont and northern New York. Together with our partners at the Larner College of Medicine at the University of Vermont and the College of Nursing and Health Sciences, we are Vermont’s academic medical center. The University of Vermont Medical Center also serves as a community hospital for approximately 150,000 residents in Chittenden and Grand Isle counties.
The University of Vermont Medical Center is a member of The University of Vermont Health Network, an integrated system established to deliver high quality academic medicine to every community we serve.