The deadline to sign-up for health insurance through the state’s new online marketplace – Vermont Health Connect – is March 15.
To help more of this region’s residents meet the deadline, Gifford Medical Center has organized two special days – March 6 and March 13 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. – when extra “navigators” will be available to help people sign-up for insurance.
On hand will be navigators from Gifford’s Blueprint for Health team, Gifford’s Health Connections office (which is part of the Vermont Coalition of Clinics for the Uninsured), and from Bi-State Primary Care.
“For those who haven’t already signed up, the deadline is looming, meaning people must act now. We have been signing people up for months and will continue to do so until the deadline, but wanted to make this extra push to help those who haven’t yet chosen an insurance plan,” said Health Connections caseworker Michele Packard.
For Vermonters not offered insurance through their employer, Vermont Health Connect is how insurance is now sold in the state. This includes Vermonters who:
do not have health insurance;
currently purchase insurance for themselves;
have Catamount or Vermont Health Access Program; or
are offered “unaffordable” coverage by their employers.
Signing up for health insurance is a requirement under federal health care reform efforts. Those who do not sign up may face a federal tax penalty.
Appointments at Gifford’s special March 6 and 13 events are preferred, but walk-ins are welcome. Call the Health Connections office 728-2323 to sign up for an appointment. On the day of your appointment or when walking in, use the main entrance. Private one-on-one discussions are being held in the primary care doctor’s office area. Look for signs and ask for directions.
Each year, too many people are killed or seriously injured by severe weather, despite advance warning. In 2012, more than 450 people in the United States were killed and more than 2,600 were seriously injured by severe weather. Seven events in 2013 accounted for losses over $1 billion each, with loss of lives and serious injuries.
Preparing for severe weather doesn’t have to be complicated or expensive.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA) will highlight the importance of preparing for severe weather before it strikes during National Severe Weather Preparedness Week, March 2-8, 2014. They ask that you “Be a Force of Nature” by knowing your risk, taking action, and being an example where you live.
Know Your Risk: Identify and understand the types of hazardous weather that can impact where you work and live. Here in New England, we can have severe winter weather, including snow, ice, wind, and cold. Rain/thunder storms, flooding, hurricanes, tornadoes, hot weather, and drought are also likely events.
Take Action: Bookmark weather.gov to get the latest forecast information. Obtain a NOAA weather radio; there are affordable models that run on AC, battery, solar, and/or hand crank power. Learn about Wireless Emergency Alerts (see below). Create or update your family emergency plan and disaster supplies kit(s).
Be an Example: Tell your friends and family what you have done to be “weather-ready.” Share your preparedness story on Facebook. Tweet your preparedness with hashtag #ImaForce.
Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA): WEA are emergency messages sent by authorized alerting authorities through your mobile carrier. Alerts will include extreme weather alerts, local emergencies requiring evacuation or immediate action, AMBER alerts, and Presidential alerts during a national emergency. It will have a special tone and vibration, both repeated twice, and will look like a text message. The message will show the type of alert, the time of the alert, any action you should take, and the issuing agency. The message will be no more than 90 characters. Most newer devices are WEA capable; some older ones are not WEA capable. For more information on devices and carriers visit: www.ctia.org/wea. WEA messages are offered for free by the wireless carriers; you will not be charged for them and they will not count toward limits on your plan. You are not being tracked; messages are broadcast from cell towers in the areas of the threat. Even if you are not in your home area, you will get the alert. Likewise, if you enter an area of alert, you will receive it when you enter the area. WEA messages are not affected by network congestion.
Preparing for severe weather will also help prepare you and your family for other emergency events, whether they are climate-related, technological, or terrorism. Any degree of preparedness is beneficial. The more prepared you are, the better off you’ll be and the more likely you can be part of the solution instead of part of the burden. For every dollar spent for preparedness, statistics show $7 is saved. Information on emergency preparedness can be obtained from the American Red Cross, FEMA, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Vermont Division of Emergency Management and Homeland Security (VT DEMHS), formerly Vermont Emergency Management (VEM), and others.
Brad Salzmann is an orthopedics physician assistant at Gifford in Randolph. He also has a master’s degree in disaster medicine and management, and serves as part of the national Disaster Medical Assistance Team based in Worcester, Mass.
Materials clerk Tina Brady uses a new handheld scanning device to quickly inventory supplies on one of many carts located throughout the medical center. The device is a gift from the Gifford Medical Center Auxiliary and greatly improves the department’s efficiency.
The Gifford Medical Center Auxiliary is turning Thrift Shop earnings into major support for the community’s local hospital.
The Auxiliary has funded more than $19,000 worth of “wish list” equipment requests spanning multiple departments at the hospital and greatly benefiting patient care.
Lending library books for the Cardiac Rehabilitation Program
Multiple pieces of equipment, from IV poles to portable oxygen saturation monitors to cardiac chairs for the inpatient hospital units
A handheld scanning device for the medical center’s Materials Management Department
Pulse oximeters for primary care offices
Play equipment and furniture for The Robin’s Nest Child Enrichment Center
Lead shield aprons for the Sharon Health Center
A changing table and digital scale for the Twin River Health Center
The Auxiliary historically has awarded “wish list” items to the hospital, meaning departments put their wishes in the form of funding requests to the Auxiliary. Auxiliary board members review the list and award what they can. This round the board fully funded the “wish list.”
Materials Management was granted a “wish list” item for the first time in memory. The scanning device is used to inventory supplies around the medical center, explained department supervisor James Shodunke Jr. It replaces a 15-year-old unit that didn’t meet the department’s needs, so staff had been taking notes with pen and paper.
As a staff member counts supplies around the medical center with the new device, which the department had been trialing, prints a report back in the materials holding area showing supply needs, meaning other staff members can immediately begin filling that supply order. The change in the busy department means a task that previously could have taken an hour and 15 minutes now takes less than 30 minutes.
“It greatly improves our efficiency and expedites the restocking process, which reduces interruptions in patient care,” Shodunke said.
Gifford’s inpatient unit received the bulk – $11,500 – of this round’s funding.
“The staff and nursing leadership of Howell Pavilion (Gifford’s inpatient unit) are very thankful for the extremely generous grants given by the Auxiliary. Many patients will benefit from the numerous requests, such as sturdier chairs for patient rooms, electronic vital sign monitoring system and alternative treatments for pain. The gifts will be a big help for both patients and staff. We would like to thank the Auxiliary for all of their hard work and support by granting our many requests,” said Alison White, vice president of patient care services.
Auxiliary board members Ruth Lutz, treasurer, and Nancy Gray, historian, walked around the medical center on Wednesday making in-person announcements to department staff that they had been funded.
Lutz was excited by the response from the departments. “They were so pleased,” she said.
Gray found the experience rewarding because of the inside look she got at the medical center and its many, diverse services.
But Lutz and Gray were quick to point out that it wasn’t they who were making the gift to the medical center, but rather the full Auxiliary and all who shop at the Thrift Shop. “We’re so fortunate to be able to do this because of what the Thrift Shop brings in,” Gray said.
Gifford’s Blueprint for Health Team has expanded to include additional mental health and addiction counselors offering one-on-one care at all Gifford primary care locations. In this file photo, from left, care coordinator Keith Marino, Health Connections (financial assistance) case worker Michele Packard and certified diabetes educator Jennifer Stratton discuss a patient at the Bethel Health Center.
In 2012 as part of the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, Gifford Medical Center completed a Community Needs Assessment.
Less than two years later, the Randolph-based medical center has already made huge strides addressing many of the needs found in that study.
In a survey of Town Meeting attendees in nine communities in 2012 plus feedback from other groups, community members’ described their priorities for a healthy community, perceived health problems and risky behaviors in the community, and their health needs or lacking services.
Among factors for a healthy community were good jobs and a healthy economy, access to health care, good schools, and healthy behaviors and lifestyles. Top health problems listed by survey respondents included addiction, obesity, and unhealthy lifestyle choices. Top health needs, or services community members have tried unsuccessfully to access, within the community were assisted living and nursing home care, alcohol and drug counseling, and dental care.
Today, Gifford is preparing to break ground in the spring on a senior living community in Randolph Center that will, over time, provide a full spectrum of housing options including the relocation of its award-winning nursing home and newly created assisted and independent living. Gifford has earned the coveted Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC) designation, making it one of only three hospitals in the country to be both a Critical Access Hospital and an FQHC. This means expanded access to care, including dental and mental health care. And the medical center’s Vermont Blueprint for Health Team has greatly expanded over the past year to include more mental health and addiction counselors, providing services at all Gifford primary care locations.
Among Gifford’s free community services is a chronic illness support group. Here Gifford pharmacist Jane McConnell provides medication advice to past participants.
“Each of these major initiatives, which have taken substantial work, targets an identified community health need. Meeting these needs and addressing the community’s feedback defines the future of Gifford and its expanding role,” says Ashley Lincoln, director of development and public relations at Gifford.
The Community Needs Assessment process is required every three years, but Gifford’s efforts are ongoing. The medical center continually provides community outreach initiatives to meet care needs, many of which are offered for free. These include classes, support groups, and health fairs. Additionally, many initiatives support local economic health, including a buy local approach.
The medical center also continues community outreach daily through a boots-on-the-ground approach that has Blueprint Community Health Team working directly with individuals and community organizations to address health and socioeconomic needs, particularly for the chronically ill.
“The Blueprint for Health is a statewide initiative. Gifford has placed extra focus on meeting community members’ needs so they can successfully manage their health,” says Blueprint Project Manager LaRae Francis. “This approach means not waiting months or years for needs to be determined, but matching resources and needs today to create an ongoing healthier community for all.”
A grant from through the Vermont Department of Health helped support the costs of the 2012 report. The full report is available on Gifford’s website in the “About Us” section under Community Reports.