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Vermont to investigate wait times for medical appointments

Published: Sep. 1, 2021 at 4:19 PM EDT|Updated: Sep. 2, 2021 at 5:05 AM EDT
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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - The state is opening an investigation into long wait times at Vermont medical facilities.

Vermont’s COVID crisis has exacerbated a long-running shortage of specialists at the UVM Medical Center and other providers, and that’s leading to long wait times for some patients.

Agency of Human Services Secretary Mike Smith says they were prompted by feedback from Vermonters. He says they hope to find how long people are waiting and which services are being hit the hardest.

“The issue here is to find out what’s going on and fix it. That’s what we intend to do and we hope our health care partners in the state will have the same interest,” Smith said. “We’ve heard some evidence from news reports and what’s reported to us, so we’ll gather that and come up with solutions from there.”

But this problem isn’t new. Long wait times are a problem WCAX News has been reporting on for at least three years. Dr. Stephen Leffler, the president of the UVM Medical Center, says the pandemic has just made it worse.

“We had a number of people who delayed care during the pandemic. They didn’t seek medical care, so people are sicker. In Vermont and around the country, there is a shortage of certain kinds of specialties,” Leffler said.

For example, Leffler says they’re down six neurologists and eight radiologists.

“We have a number of challenges having enough staff and space providing care right now. We actually had challenged before COVID. We have data going back to 2018 showing we had a lot more patients,” said Leffler.

Once they complete their investigation, Smith says the list of recommendations will be shared with providers.

The UVM Medical Center in 2018 created a task force to address issues surrounding wait times.

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