Gifford 108th Annual Meeting Paints Strong Picture of Uniquely Successful Small Hospital

Gifford Administrator Joe Woodin

Joseph Woodin, Gifford’s administrator, speaks at Saturday’s Annual Meeting of the medical center’s corporators. Woodin outlined a year of success.

If there was any doubt that Randolph’s local hospital – Gifford – stands above when it comes to commitment to community and financial stability, it was wholly erased Saturday as the medical center held its 108th Annual Meeting of its corporators.

The evening gathering at Gifford featured an overview of the hospital’s successful past year, news of spectacular community outreach efforts, a video detailing employees’ commitment to caring for their neighbors and a ringing endorsement from Al Gobeille, chairman of the Green Mountain Care Board and the evening’s guest speaker.

Diane and William Brigham, corporators, arrive at Gifford’s 108th Annual Meeting

Diane and William Brigham, corporators, arrive at Gifford’s 108th Annual Meeting.

For Gifford, 2013 brought a 14th consecutive year “making” budget and operating margin, new providers, expanded services including urology and wound care, expanded facilities in Sharon and Randolph, a designation as a Federally Qualified Health Center and all permits needed to move forward on the construction of a senior living community in Randolph Center and private inpatient rooms at Gifford.

The Randolph medical center also collected a ranking as the state’s most energy efficient hospital, an award for pediatrician Dr. Lou DiNicola, national recognition for Outstanding Senior Volunteer Major Melvin McLaughlin of Randolph and, noted Board Chairman Gus Meyer, continued national accolades for the Menig Extended Care Facility nursing home.

Al Gobeille

Al Gobeille, chairman of the Green Mountain Care Board, speaks at Gifford’s 108th annual corporators meeting on Saturday evening at the Randolph hospital.

“In the meantime, we’re faced with an ever-changing health care landscape,” said Meyer, listing accountable care organizations, payment reform initiatives and a burgeoning number of small hospitals forming relationships with the region’s two large tertiary care centers.

For some small hospitals, these shifts cause “angst.” “We like to think it brings us possibility,” said Meyer. “As both a Critical Access Hospital and now a Federally Qualified Health Center, Gifford is particularly well positioned to sustain our health as an organization and continue to fulfill our vital role in enhancing the health of the communities we serve.”

Joan Granter and Irene Schaefer

Joan Granter, left, and Irene Schaefer, corporators, arrive at Gifford’s 108th Annual Meeting.

The FQHC designation brings an increased emphasis on preventative care and will allow Gifford to invest in needed dental and mental health care in the community, Administrator Joseph Woodin said.

Gifford is but one of only three hospitals in the country to now be both a Critical Access Hospital and Federally Qualified Health Center.

“Congratulations! You’re a visionary,” said Gobeille in addressing Gifford’s new FQHC status. “It’s a brilliant move. It’s a great way to do the right thing.”

And Gifford is doing the right thing.

Gobeille was clear in his praise for Gifford’s management team and its commitment to stable budgets, without layoffs or compromising patient care.

Community investment

Marjorie and Dick Drysdale

Marjorie and Dick Drysdale, corporators, arrive at Gifford’s 108th Annual Meeting.

Gifford’s commitment also extends to the community.

In a major announcement, Woodin shared that thanks to the William and Mary Markle Community Foundation, Gifford will grant a total of $25,000 to schools in 10 area towns to support exercise and healthy eating programs.

Gifford annually at this time of year also hands out a grant and scholarship. The 2014 Philip Levesque grant in the amount of $1,000 was awarded to the Orange County Parent Child Center. The 2014 Richard J. Barrett, M.D., scholarship was awarded to Genia Schumacher, a mother of seven and breast cancer survivor who is in her second year of the radiology program at Champlain College.

The continued use of “Gifford Gift Certificates,” encouraging local spending during the holiday, invested about $40,000 in the regional economy in December. “These small stores appreciate it. It really does make a difference,” noted Woodin, who also detailed Gifford’s buy local approach and many community outreach activities in 2013, including free health fairs and classes.

The community in turn has invested in Gifford. The medical center’s 120 volunteers gave 16,678 hours in 2013, or 2,085 eight-hour workdays. Thrift Shop volunteers gave another 6,489 hours, or 811 workdays. And the Auxiliary, which operates the popular Thrift Shop, has both invested in equipment for various Gifford departments and made a major contribution toward the planned senior living community that will begin construction in May.

Elections

David and Peggy Ainsworth

Outgoing Gifford board member David Ainsworth arrives with wife Peggy to Saturday’s 108th Annual Meeting of the Corporators.

The night also brought new members to the Gifford family.

Corporators elected two new of their own: Matt Considine of Randolph and Jody Richards of Bethel. Considine, the director of investments for the State of Vermont, was also elected to the Board of Trustees and Lincoln Clark of Royalton was re-elected.

Leaving the board after six years was Sharon Dimmick of Randolph Center, a past chairwoman, and David Ainsworth of South Royalton after nine years.

‘Recipe for Success’

“Recipe for Success” was the night’s theme and built around a fresh-off-the-press 2013 Annual Report sharing patient accounts of Gifford staff members going above and beyond. The report, now available on www.giffordmed.org, credits employees’ strong commitment to patient-care as helping the medical center succeed.

Taking the message one step further, Gifford unveiled a new video with staff members talking about the privilege of providing local care and the medical center’s diverse services, particularly its emphasis on primary care. The video is also on the hospital’s Web site.

David Ainsworth and Sharon Dimmick

Gus Meyer, chairman of Gifford’s board, honors retiring board members David Ainsworth and Sharon Dimmick.

Health care reform
Shifting resources to primary and preventative care is a key to health care reform initiatives, said a personable and humorous Gobeille, who emphasized affordability.

“We all want care. We just have to be able to afford care,” he said. “In the two-and-a-half years I’ve been on the board, I’ve grown an optimism that Vermont could do something profound.”

Gobeille described what he called “two Vermonts” – one where large companies providing their employees more affordable insurance and one where small businesses and individuals struggle to pay high costs. “The Affordable Care Act tries to fix that,” he said.

The role his board is playing in the initiatives in Vermont is one of a regulator over hospital budgets and the certificate of need process, one as innovator of pilot projects aimed at redefining how health care is delivered, and paid for, and as an evaluator of the success of these initiatives as well as the administration and legislators’ efforts to move toward a single-payer system.

Audience members asked questions about when a financing plan for a single-payer system would be forthcoming (after the election, Gobeille said), about how costs can be reduced without personal accountability from individuals for their health (personal accountability absolutely matters, he said) and how small hospitals can keep the doors open.

Gobeille pointed to Gifford’s record of financial success and working for the best interests of patients and communities as keys. “I don’t think Gifford’s future is in peril as long as you have a great management team, and you do,” Gobeille said.

Chiropractor Dr. Michael Chamberland Joins Sharon Sports Medicine Team

Dr. Michael Chamberland

Dr. Michael Chamberland

Chiropractor Dr. Michael Chamberland has joined Gifford’s Sharon Health Center, fulfilling a dream to work at a multidisciplinary sports medicine practice.

Originally from Bellows Falls, Dr. Chamberland attended the University of Vermont, studying pre-medicine and nutritional sciences. He went on to Western States Chiropractor College in Portland, Ore., earning his doctor of chiropractic degree.

He credits a back injury with steering him toward chiropractic.

He got hurt playing hockey. Months went by without relief until he visited a chiropractor for the first time in his life. “It was a chiropractic miracle, so to speak,” he says, remembering recovering his full range of motion after his first adjustment and being symptom-free within two weeks. “For me, I just couldn’t believe it. I realized that it was the perfect profession for me.”

After a chiropractic internship at Western States Chiropractic Clinics in Oregon, Dr. Chamberland returned to Vermont. He opened a private practice, Catamount Chiropractic, in Colchester as well as working at Jerome Family Chiropractic in Montpelier and Temple Chiropractic in Bellows Falls.

He maintains his private practice part-time, which shares space with a physical therapy facility, but couldn’t pass up an opportunity to work at the Sharon Health Center. “That was the ideal,” he says of the Sharon sports medicine team that includes podiatry, general sports medicine, physical therapists and an athletic trainer, and fellow chiropractor Dr. Hank Glass. “It (a multidisciplinary sports medicine team) doesn’t exist in Burlington. It generally doesn’t exist on the East Coast.”

The Sharon Health Center is part of Gifford Medical Center. Gifford’s family atmosphere and collaborative, team approach were also attractive, he notes.

Dr. Chamberland is board certified by the National Board of Chiropractic Examiners. His clinical interests include prevention and treatment of sports injuries, sports nutrition, posture assessment, injury risk assessment and advanced imaging.

A resident of Essex, Dr. Chamberland is an athlete in his free time, including playing hockey, kiteboarding, alpine skiing, golf, tennis, cycling, hiking, water skiing and wakeboarding. He worked as an alpine race coach in Vail, Colo., as well as Smugglers’ Notch, for a time. He was even part of a race crew for the 1999 World Alpine Ski Championships in Vail.

Now he is putting his athletic and chiropractic experience to work in Sharon. Call him Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays at the Sharon Health Center at (802) 763-8000.

Gifford Welcomes Certified Nurse-Midwife Maggie Gardner

nurse-midwife Maggie Gardner

Nurse-Midwife Maggie Gardner

Maggie Gardner was studying sociology at the University of Vermont when a nurse-midwife came to speak during a class on reproduction.

Gardner’s first thought: “I want to be her.”

Today, she is.

After graduating from the University of Vermont in 2001, Gardner went to work for that midwife’s home birth practice, Welcoming Home Family Nurse-Midwifery in Hinesburg. Gardner was the office manager and assistant, both clerically and clinically, including assisting at births.

She went on help start a midwifery practice in her hometown of Vergennes, Tapestry Midwifery, and returned to the University of Vermont, undertaking the master’s entry program in nursing and earning her registered nurse certificate. Next was nurse midwifery school at the Frontier Nursing University in Kentucky – a master’s degree program.

And now, Gardner, a Vermont native, is working at one of the state’s most coveted certified nurse-midwifery practices – Gifford Ob/Gyn and Midwifery.

Board certified by the American Midwifery Certification Board and a member of the American College of Nurse Midwives, Gardner is seeing patients at Gifford’s clinics in Randolph and Berlin.

“I’m excited,” says Gardner, calling Gifford’s practice on the top of the pedestal when it comes to midwifery. “It has a strong reputation in the midwifery community.

“Many people don’t get to choose where they work. I get to choose to work at a place that’s committed to midwives.”

Gifford’s practice, she notes, takes the best of the home and hospital birth experience, and combines them into a natural, hospital-based midwifery birth.

Gardner will do the same in her practice at Gifford as well as focusing on open communication, equal partnerships with patients and families, and individualized care.

Gardner cares for all types of patients, from women needing routine gynecologic care to women expecting a baby, but has special interests in breast feeding support, Pap test follow-up, testing for and educating women on risk factors for sexually transmitted infections, and sexual health.

Those interests in part incorporate Gardner’s other work experience. In addition to her midwifery experience, Gardner has worked in pediatrics, emergency medicine, and infectious disease at Fletcher Allen Health Care in primarily office assistant type roles, and most recently was a manager at Planned Parenthood of Northern New England, where she was responsible for the implementation of a new centralized lab management system for 21 Planned Parenthood health centers in Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont.

Gardner lives in the home in which she grew up in Vergennes. She is married and has two children, a 15-year-old daughter and a 12-year-old.

Call Gardner and the midwifery team at Gifford at 728-2401.

Hospitalist Dr. Robert Cochrane Joins Inpatient Team

hospitalist Robert Cochrane

Hospitalist Robert Cochrane

Experienced hospitalist Dr. Robert Cochrane has joined Gifford Medical Center’s 24-hour hospitalist team.

Originally from Montreal, Dr. Cochrane’s first career was in engineering. Consulting work in the field brought him to the United States and soon he was considering a major career change.

“Medicine was just interesting to me,” he says, noting that his parents were aging and he found himself wanting to be “part of the solution” for them.

He took a few classes, loved it, and decided to fully pursue it.

He attended the pre-medicine post baccalaureate degree program at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh and then the University of Vermont College of Medicine. Dr. Cochrane went on to residency at Fletcher Allen Health Care and quickly found himself drawn to intensive care and sicker patients.

“I wanted to really be involved in more acute, sicker people,” says Dr. Cochrane, who went to work as a hospitalist – a doctor caring for hospitalized patients.

Board certified by the American Board of Internal Medicine and a member of the American College of Physicians, Dr. Cochrane worked for Apogee Physicians Group launching or working at hospitalist programs in medical centers across the state, including Northwest Medical Center, Springfield Hospital, Copley Hospital, and Porter Medical Center, as well as Alice Hyde Medical Center in Malone, N.Y.

The work with Apogee, a physician-owned business focused entirely on hospitalist medicine, meant switching jobs every few years, however. Dr. Cochrane of South Burlington was looking for more stability.

“I wanted to be in a community where I could stay for a long period of time and know the community well,” says Dr. Cochrane, who has now found that at Gifford.

Experienced Nurse Leader Alison White Joins Gifford

Alison White

Alison White

Experienced nurse leader Alison White has joined Gifford Medical Center as its vice president of patient care services – a role that oversees the Hospital Division, including inpatient care, the Birthing Center, ob/gyn and midwifery practice, Emergency Department, nursing home and Adult Day Program.

A graduate of the bachelor’s degree nursing program at the University of Vermont and the master’s degree health care administration program at Independence University in Utah, White has spent her career in nursing and then nurse leadership.

Her nursing career focused on cardiac and dialysis patients – populations she loved because of the relationships formed with patients. “They grow to be your family,” she says.

White went on to serve as director of care management at Central Vermont Medical Center (CVMC), the director of regional care management and quality improvement for the Dartmouth Hitchcock Alliance, the director of clinical outcomes at CVMC and most recently vice president of quality, chief nursing officer and patient safety office at the Berlin-based hospital.

A motorcycle accident in August that nearly took her life left White reevaluating her priorities, however. She was seeking a better work/life balance, and says she has found that at Gifford.

“I felt like I hit the jackpot,” says White, who joined Gifford earlier this year. “The people are so open and warm and helpful and genuine, really genuine. Team comes through. It has a feeling of family. It doesn’t have a feeling of ‘corporateness,’ but at the end of the day the job gets done.

“I’m just so grateful to be here. I look forward every day to coming in.”

White succeeds Linda Minsinger, a long-time vice president who has transitioned to a new role: executive director of Gifford’s retirement community that will soon be under construction in Randolph Center and requires substantial planning.

“I think Alison is a great opportunity for Gifford’s Hospital Division. She comes with expanded current knowledge in the health care field and quality. I feel she will provide the staff and leaders with a new and different view of their roles,” says Minsinger, who is equally enthusiastic about her new role, which in part develops not just a community, but a culture “to ensure the residents and staff are happy and enjoy all the activities and opportunities that are offered.”

White lives in Barre with her husband Paul, a Vermont State Police captain. They have two children, Catie, 21, and Jeffrey, 18. White enjoys photography, volunteering at her church, serving on the Central Vermont Home Health and Hospice board and traveling in her free time.

Get Help ‘Creating a Healthy Lifestyle’ March 14 at Gifford

Free health fair and diabetes expo focuses on chronic illness

Gifford chefs Ed Striebe and Steve Morgan

Gifford chefs Ed Striebe, left, and Steve Morgan present at a past Diabetes Education Expo. The annual, free event is expanded this year to all with chronic illnesses and includes a health fair as well as presentations, including a cooking demonstration by Morgan.

Gifford Medical Center will hold a free Health Fair and Diabetes Education Expo on Friday, March 14 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the Randolph hospital’s Conference Center and visitors’ entrance.

The fair, redesigned from past years, is open to anyone with a chronic condition, not just those with diabetes. It does not require registration, and puts a strong emphasis on “Creating a Healthy Lifestyle” – the fair’s theme.

Gifford has held a Diabetes Education Expo for eight prior years. While the diabetes epidemic remains, organizers from Gifford’s Blueprint for Health team decided to expand the event this year to other conditions because so much of what is being discussed is applicable, explained Jennifer Stratton, Gifford certified diabetes educator.

“Most people who have chronic conditions have something in common,” Stratton said. “I also wanted to open it up to those with pre-diabetes to help prevent diabetes from actually happening.”

The day includes vendor booths and a health fair open throughout the 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. event. Vendor booths are located in the hospital’s visitors’ entrance south of the hospital near the Gift Shop. Vendors this year are local community resource agencies and organizations talking about services and help available locally.

Health fair booths are in one of the hospital’s conference rooms and include blood pressure checks, foot checks, glucose monitoring, goal-setting guidance and guidance on healthy lifestyle choices, physical therapy exercises, tobacco cessation help, diabetes education, information on support groups, and more. The booths are operated by experts from Gifford as well as local dentist Dr. John Westbook and local optometrist Dr. Dean Barelow.

Special presentations will also be offered in a second conference room, including a 10-10:45 a.m. talk by Stratton on “Advances in Diabetes Management;” an 11-11:30 a.m. talk on “Using Herbs to Complement Your Diabetes Wellness Plan” by Sylvia Gaboriault, a registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator; and a 1-1:30 p.m. cooking demonstration on “Sugar ‘Less’ Baking” with Gifford chef Steve Morgan.

Participants may drop in or stay all day. A couple of raffle drawings will be offered and the hospitals’ cafeteria will be open for those wishing to buy lunch.

Learn more by calling Gifford’s Blueprint team at (802) 728-7710. Gifford Medical Center is located at 44 S. Main St. (Route 12) in Randolph. Drive past the hospital, south on Route 12, and take the entrance just after the medical center to access the visitors’ entrance. The Conference Center is marked with a green awning. For handicapped accessibility, go in the main entrance marked “Registration” and take the elevator to the first floor.

Sign-Up for Health Insurance March 6, 13 at Gifford

Vermont Health ConnectThe 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.

National Severe Weather Preparedness Week is March 2-8

National Severe Weather Preparedness WeekEach 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.

Auxiliary Awards $19,000 to Gifford Departments

Auxiliary Award

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.

Funded were:

  • 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.

Responding to Community Needs

Vermont Blueprint for Health

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.

chronic illness support group

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.