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Vermont hospital's emergency department surge prompts complaint of negligent patient care

An unexpected influx of patients in the last three months at the University of Vermont Medical Center's emergency department has prompted a formal complaint of negligent patient care to Vermont regulators, VTDigger reported.

A CMS spokesperson confirmed that Vermont regulatory officials received a complaint about conditions at the medical center's ED and were "looking into it."

He referred questions to Vermont regulators.

A hospital spokesperson said the hospital had not been notified by CMS, but the federal agency's inspections typically are unannounced.

The state survey agency director at Vermont's division of licensing and protection said she could not confirm nor deny a complaint had been filed, and could not discuss the nature of any complaint or whether an investigation would be conducted.

Hospital officials could not pinpoint a single explanation for the surge in ED patients, such as increasing flu cases. Overflow patients are typically kept in hallways when the ED is over capacity, and on a regular day, 175 patients go through the department.

Despite the recent increase in ED volume, patient care had not been compromised, said Isabelle Desjardins, MD, the hospital's CMO.

Dr. Desjardins said the ED crunch was being felt regionally and that referral hospitals, such as Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in Lebanon, N.H., that take patients from smaller area hospitals, are feeling the increase more acutely.

A Dartmouth-Hitchcock spokesperson confirmed to the VTDigger that it also had seen a higher than usual demand in the ED.

University of Vermont Medical Center's 138 new single rooms expected to be finished in June as part of an expansion should help patient flow and alleviate some of the backup in the ED, Dr. Desjardins said.

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