Vt. receives federal money to attract health professionals to underserved areas

Vermont’s health care system received a boost from Washington to help it hire health care professionals to work in underserved parts of the state.

The federal Health Resources and Services Administration on Wednesday gave $250,000 to the state’s loan repayment program, which will be used to erase student debt for providers who take jobs with Vermont’s federally qualified health centers or rural health clinics.

The money is the first allotment in a four-year funding commitment. The federal money is being matched by the state, said John Olson, director of the state’s rural health program. The state match will come from health centers, foundations and other community resources. Any remaining match will come out of the state Education Fund.

The combined $500,000 will be awarded to 25 practitioners in amounts of up to $20,000. Physicians, physician assistants, nurse practitioners and dentists can receive up to $20,000 per year for up to six years by agreeing to work in underserved areas.

The University of Vermont College of Medicine and the Bi-state Primary Care Association will manage the applications and awards.

Nine of Vermont’s 14 counties have an inadequate or severely inadequate supply of physicians, according to Sen. Bernie Sanders’ office.


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The federally qualified health centers, with close to 50 locations across the state, and the rural clinics provide crucial access to health services for Vermont residents. State explores changes in threshold for noise from wind projects

State regulators Tuesday held a workshop to discuss the health impacts of wind turbine noise and is considering whether to adopt new sound standards.

Most wind projects in Vermont are limited to a 45-decibel sound level, which the Vermont Public Service Board adopted based on guidelines developed by the World Health Organization. But proponents of new noise standards say the state must set a limit that accounts for temperature, humidity, location, wind speeds and the like -- all of which they say cause extreme changes in the level of noise the turbines create.

Sandy Reider is a primary care physician in Lyndonville. He said he has treated several patients living near turbines who experience similar symptoms, including nausea, insomnia and headaches. He said these symptoms could be linked to exposure to turbine noise.

There are few studies that confirm Reider’s anecdotal findings, but "Just because the prevailing models fail to explain observed adverse health effects, does not mean they do not exist," he said.

Other speakers say more research is needed to determine a causal link between noise exposure and adverse health effects.

David Grass is environmental health surveillance chief for the Vermont Department of Health. He said improperly sited turbines can cause sleep disturbance if the noise is greater than 40 decibels inside the home. And this can lead to other health consequences, he said.

However, he said the role of annoyance is "yet to be nailed down," in part because there are so few residents living near wind turbines to study. Nonetheless, he said sleep disruption can be addressed by reducing the perception of noise.

He and others said when the turbines are visible, the perceived health effect increases.

He questioned whether certain studies on the issue could even be generalized to Vermont’s unique characteristics.

"There remain a lot of unanswered questions and uncertainties," he said.

~VTDigger.org