A COVID-19 Update to the Community
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/ Categories: NEWS, 2020, 04

A COVID-19 Update to the Community

Fulfilling Southwestern Vermont Health Care’s (SVHC) mission—of providing exceptional care and comfort for our community—has never been as challenging as during the COVID-19 pandemic. Over the past month, we have had to choose between safety and accessibility. In all cases, we have adapted our health system to protect our patients and staff while continuing to provide high-quality care.

Changes have included reducing visitation, closing the Putnam Café, requiring all visitors to stop at a respiratory check-in station, and delivering primary and urgently needed specialty care via telemedicine, whenever possible. While these actions are significantly different to our welcoming, patient-centered culture, they are truly necessary to minimize the impact of this new disease.

SVHC is preparing to deliver care under extraordinary hardships:

  • Staff: To safeguard our employees’ wellbeing and mitigate spread, we implemented an enhanced health screening process at staff entry points and ramped up peer-support and employee assistance programs.
  • Patient Rooms: We have increased our number of beds and inpatient rooms to 100, our full operating capacity.
  • Negative Pressure Rooms: To ensure that the virus is vented safely outdoors, we increased negative pressure rooms from 6 to 44.
  • Respiratory Evaluation Center (REC): Our ambulance bay has been converted to a REC so suspected COVID-19 patients have a dedicated entrance to the Emergency Department and are evaluated in a separate space.
  • Supplies and Equipment: SVHC staff, community members, and state agencies are working hard to secure additional stock of personal protective equipment (e.g., masks, goggles, and gloves) and vital equipment, like ventilators. In addition, state legislators have fast tracked licensing to allow physicians from nearby states to practice in Bennington.
  • Surge Planning: We are actively meeting with the Vermont Department of Health, other Vermont hospitals, and emergency preparedness organizations to plan for and be ready to equip an overflow hospital to treat a potential surge of patients.

Southwestern Vermont Health Care and our region is fortunate to have our dedicated physicians, nurses, and clinicians focused on the crisis. Working on the front lines of a pandemic is grueling, but Southwestern Vermont Health Care is committed and dedicated to continuing to provide exceptional care.

Last Friday, March 24, we launched a COVID-19 Relief Fund (svhealthcare.org/give-now) to accept much-needed financial contributions from the community. We are especially grateful to the SVHC Auxiliary, which has generously agreed to match the first $100,000 in donations. The COVID-19 Relief Fund will be used to: create additional negative pressure rooms; purchase life-saving supplies, such as ventilators, respirators, and additional Personal Protective Equipment (PPE); and implement a surge plan to expand patient care areas, including an off-site Respiratory Evaluation Center (REC).

Thank you to our community for your encouragement, acts of kindness, and continued support. We are in this together, and we will get through this together.

Stay healthy and be safe.

Tom Dee, FACHE
President and CEO
Southwestern Vermont Health Care

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