SVHC Addresses Effects of Hurricane Irene

For Immediate Release
30 August, 2011, 1500
Media Contact: Kevin Robinson, SVHC Public Information Officer
802-447-5003 or 802-442-6361 extension 6114


As a part of the greater Bennington community and communities in Wilmington and Manchester, SVHC has been touched by this disaster. We are the largest employer in the county, and many of our employees have lost homes and other valuables.

Since Sunday at 10 a.m., SVHC’s Incident Command Staff have been monitoring the situation in Bennington and the surrounding communities. Fortunately, there has been little loss of life. SVHC is in regular contact with town and state emergency management officials.

At present, beyond rescheduling and staffing issues, we have seen no significant disruptions to the normal functions of the hospital. Our employees and physicians have risen to the occasion pulling extra shifts, coming in early, and leaving late.

Going forward, we are facing two issues: a water main break in Bennington and the lack of access by road to the Deerfield Valley Community in Wilmington, Vt, where we have the only medical practice.

Water Break

Health system staff are preparing for the possibility of a partial or complete loss of water resulting from the water main break. The town has assured us that SVMC is a priority for water distribution. We are grateful to town officials for working closely with SVMC around this crucial infrastructure issues.

SVHC has taken several steps to prepare for reduced water pressure or a loss of water. These preparations include the following:

· Canceling all elective and endoscopy services as of Aug. 31 (SVMC’s ability to resuming services will be assessed on a day-to-day basis.)

· Transferring renal dialysis patients to Berkshire Medical Center and Rutland Regional Medical Center as of Aug. 31.

· Implementing a water conservation plan, which involves:

  • Closing bathrooms that do not have water conserving toilets or fixtures
  • Shutting off drinking fountains, ice machines and water coolers in staff areas.
  • Switching to waterless patient care products such as waterless hand sanitizer.
  • Where possible, minimize bathing of patients.
  • Shutting off birthing tubs.
  • Using disposable dishes for patients as well as staff.
  • Limit use of in-house laundry whenever possible.
  • Discontinue all non-essential water-based cleaning of rooms and facilities.

As a precaution, SVHC is also organizing its resources in the event that our facility has no water for an extended period of time. In the unlikely event that water is unavailable for a long period of time, SVHC may have to evacuate patients. This is purely a precaution we are taking to ensure the safety of our patients. Again, this event is extremely unlikely.

Deerfield Valley

SVHC operates the only medical practice in the Deerfield Valley, the area around Wilmington, Vt., which has been devastated by the recent flooding. With one exception, the major highways into Wilmington are impassable. As a result, the closest hospital to that community is an hour or more away. We are working with our physicians, emergency management agencies, and town officials to provide urgent care in the area.

Our staff and physicians in that area are working long hours to ensure that the community has access to medical care. The Deerfield Valley Campus has been open extended hours and on-call for urgent care. SVHC staff also are providing care at the Red Cross shelter in Wilmington.

SVHC is supporting their efforts with regular shipments of supplies. The health system also is providing additional physicians and staff to relieve or augment the local caregivers. As in Bennington, we are in close contact with the town officials and relief agencies on the ground in Wilmington. The hospital’s Incident Command Team is working on a long-term plan to continue to offer expanded hours and in the Deerfield Valley. We will execute this plan as the situation on the ground in Deerfield warrants.

How the Community Can Help:

The most pressing need in Bennington at the moment is water conservation. We are asking everyone in the Bennington Community to help the town and our hospital by conserving water. Some suggestions for water conservation include:

  • bathing only once every two days and taking a short, 5-minute shower
  • reducing toilet flushing
  • putting off doing laundry
  • not watering plants
  • not washing cars, dogs, decks, driveways or windows