Seven Days

To the Editor:

I thank Seven Days for the excellent story on the University of Vermont Medical Center’s use of temporary nurses [“Health Care Premium,” November 3]. These extra millions spent on the temporary nurses come from our fee, premium and tax dollars. That money ought to support local doctors, nurses, staff and our health care — not only at UVM Medical Center but also at all our other hospitals.

I found it telling that the hospital’s permanent staffers were “skeptical” about UVM chief of nursing Peg Gagne’s statement that “We really do want to get back to our own staff being a much higher percentage [of the workforce],” given that staff feels “the hospital has shown little interest in keeping them around.”

This phenomenon isn’t new. After surgery at a Vermont hospital some years ago, I was helped by nurses from Alabama, Colorado and New Jersey.

Why should our money feed a raft of traveling nurses? I don’t blame the traveling nurses, and I understand why a UVM Medical Center nurse would want to join their ranks to obtain better compensation. I do think that UVM and the rest of us need to consider why things have reached this point.

Has UVM been treating staff as expendable resources to support high salaries for the CEO and the growing number of other highly paid executives? Has this policy now “trickled down” to this?

In the inevitable state investigations to follow, it is time to reconsider UVM’s approach and carefully devise statewide regulations to govern our health care workforce — before more bad things trickle down to us.

Walter Carpenter