Hospitals have experienced challenges that are unprecedented in the scope of modern healthcare during the COVID-19 pandemic. The global health crisis was exacerbated by unexpected costs and difficulties finding the staff necessary to care for many patients needing immediate attention. During the unprecedented situation, the New Hampshire Hospital Association (NHHA) helped all 31 of their member hospitals ensure that they had all the resources and staff they needed to provide the care their patients deserve.
The NHHA provided resources and advocacy for hospitals, and through its partnership with VISTA is able to help prevent critical staffing vacancies. We sat down with Vanessa Stafford, Vice President of Communications for NHHA, who gave us insight into how New Hampshire hospitals were able to navigate the unexpected hurdles of the pandemic. She shared her thoughts on where hospitals go to maintain financial stability while also providing adequate care for their patients.
Give us a high-level overview of how NHHA helps medical organizations and healthcare systems in your state.
The New Hampshire Hospital Association provides advocacy and public policy leadership on behalf of hospitals and health systems across the state and serves as a liaison between hospital members and public health, state, and federal delegations. Through our representation and advocacy activities, NHHA ensures that members’ perspectives and needs are heard and addressed in health policy development, legislative and regulatory issues, and judicial matters at both the state and federal levels.
Through its affiliation with the Foundation for Healthy Communities, NHHA supports the efforts of member hospitals to provide quality, cost-effective and accessible care through patient safety and quality improvement initiatives, efforts that enhance the delivery of care for behavioral health patients, and other programs designed to help hospitals and health systems improve total population and community health.
Tell us about the changes your Association has experienced over the last year. How have you adjusted to these situations?
The COVID-19 pandemic has created significant challenges for hospitals and health systems nationwide. This has been no different for New Hampshire hospitals. Hospitals and health systems in New Hampshire have been integral in supporting the state’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Through collaboration with each other and with the NH Department of Health and Human Services, hospitals expanded capacity, coordinated sharing of limited resources, quickly established sites for COVID-19 tests, and led efforts to administer almost 170,000 COVID-19 vaccines, all while also supporting the administration of vaccines at state-run fixed sites.
Hospitals have also played a key role in educating the public about COVID-19 infection and prevention throughout the health crisis. As a result, healthcare professionals are consistently identified as among the most trusted and credible sources of vaccine information, which presents a real opportunity for hospitals and health systems to help members of our community increase their confidence about COVID-19 vaccines’ safety and effectiveness.
The New Hampshire Hospital Association has supported our hospitals’ public health response by staying in touch with the challenges our members face and ensuring that our support is flexible and adaptive enough to help our members on the front lines fight the pandemic. Depending on their needs relative to COVID-19, the Association has advocated at the state and federal levels for provider funding relief due, supply chain solutions, waivers to ensure provider protections throughout the states of emergencies, and more to ensure that hospitals and health systems had the resources they need to fight the pandemic.
Physicians, advanced practitioners, nurses, hospitals, and healthcare organizations have been on the front lines of this pandemic, and they will continue to be. They’ve worked tirelessly over the past year to prepare for the surge of COVID-19 patients. As a result, they are better prepared and equipped to respond to the pandemic. Keeping patients and the public safe through vigilant prevention measures to stop the spread of COVID-19 continues to be a priority for every hospital in New Hampshire as they continue to adapt to meet the many challenges presented by this pandemic while also ensuring patients get the care they need, when and where they need it.
How has your support evolved for your member organizations over time?
2020 has been one of the most challenging and unbelievable years in our careers in healthcare. The COVID-19 pandemic has upended our society and economy, challenged our health care systems to respond like never before, and changed the lives of far too many people here in New Hampshire and everywhere in the world. The Association has been a critical advocate and component of the important work we have done together this year and will continue to do in the months and years ahead.
We at the NHHA are proud to have served as a touchpoint for all of New Hampshire’s medical industry to collaborate– compiling and sharing data and information that helps us and state leaders respond to the pandemic. Thus allowing all of us to provide better care enables policymakers and the public to understand the challenges facing hospitals and what is needed to support our efforts in the days and months ahead.
What is your outlook for members and the future within your state?
Early this calendar year, COVID-19 arrived in New Hampshire and immediately impacted our member hospitals and health systems, as well as the Association. It also reminded the public just how essential hospitals and health systems are to their communities, demonstrated by the continued support and appreciation for the healthcare heroes on the front lines. The Association has worked hard to support our hospitals and health systems in New Hampshire as we respond to the challenges presented by the pandemic, and we have no plans to stop assisting where we’re able. We’ll continue to support New Hampshire hospitals as they continue to fight on the front lines and beyond.
Tell us about your mission and whom you serve. What is the ‘why’ behind what you do?
To provide leadership through advocacy, education, and information to support its member hospitals and health care delivery systems in delivering high-quality health care to the patients and communities they serve. The Association serves its hospitals by advocating on state and federal policy issues on behalf of its member hospitals, their communities, and the patients they serve.
Who are your members? How many member organizations are there?
Every hospital in the state is a member of our organization, which isn’t the case for other Associations across the country. There are 31 hospitals in New Hampshire, 5 of which are specialty hospitals and 26 acute care hospitals. Of the 26 acute care facilities across the state, 13 are critical access hospitals that serve the state’s more rural populations. By working together, every hospital in the state can level the playing field and work on challenges together.
What are your current priorities within your respective organizations?
Ending the pandemic is priority number one for our hospitals and health systems, and the most effective way to do that is to increase the state’s vaccination rate. There are, however, several priorities that we continue to focus on, even in the midst of a pandemic. Provider relief for the costs associated with responding to the pandemic is significant as well.
The COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant financial impact on hospitals due to costs associated with preparing for a surge of patients, delaying elective and non-urgent procedures for months, and securing the many supplies need to strengthen their response. As a result, hospitals statewide suffered millions in COVID-19 related financial losses by year-end and saw a financial deficit of $228 million, which continues to grow as hospitals continue their response to the pandemic.
NHHA will continue working with our state partners and federal delegation to secure future funding relief to help member hospitals navigate this public health crisis and the increasing financial struggle in which our hospitals find themselves. In addition, other priorities like strengthening the state’s behavioral health system, state and federal regulatory and policy issues, workforce shortages, and payer issues/reimbursement are always significant priorities for us.
Tell us about the partnership between you and VISTA.
The Association has had a partnership with VISTA Staffing Solutions for nearly Three years now, and it’s one that we’re very proud of and thrilled to have been able to establish. While VISTA has had relationships with hospitals across the state for many years, the partnership we embarked on allows us to help strengthen their relationships with hospitals. Provide them with marketing and outreach supports to enhance their business development goals and work together to ensure that hospitals are aware of the solutions that VISTA can provide them in support of their workforce needs.
New Hampshire is not unlike other states and is facing a significant workforce shortage exacerbated by the pandemic, so partnerships like the one that we have VISTA can help our member hospitals with staffing solutions are critically important right now and will continue to be moving forward.
New Hampshire hospitals can overcome the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic through NHHA advocacy and their partnership with VISTA as a reliable locum tenens provider. However, the challenges for the medical industry are far from over, and the pandemic has highlighted some glaring inadequacies within the system that will continue to be problematic without real solutions.
As a staffing solutions partner, VISTA provides experts in a diverse range of more than 60 specialties. Ensure that your healthcare system is ready for whatever the future brings. Learn more about how you can partner with VISTA today.