The following is an excerpt from our 2013 Annual Report: A Recipe for Success.
During a trip to Hawaii in April of 2000, Irene Schaefer’s husband fell, hit his head, and died two days later at Queens Medical Center in Honolulu. Irene was completely alone, except for the chaplaincy volunteers at the hospital who sat with her during her husband’s final two days.
“It was traumatic and sad, but those people kept me going,” says Irene.
Just a month later, back in Randolph, a local reverend with the help of a team of area churchgoers started the volunteer chaplaincy program at Gifford. It was too soon for Irene, a local resident, but when a second training was scheduled that November, Irene signed up. “I had to get out and give back because of what I had been given in Hawaii.”
In the more than decade since, this now 85-year-old has made Gifford her “second home.” “It’s very rewarding. I get more out of it than I give,” she says.
She comes several times a month to spend a couple of hours visiting with patients. When a patient is dying, Irene offers a prayer “for a calm and smooth transition.” Mostly, though, she listens. “Everybody has a story,” she says.
She is often the person called in the night to comfort a patient or family in the Emergency Department.
For Irene, it is not her first “job” or even her first volunteer job. From New Jersey, Irene was a church secretary for years. Upon moving to Randolph 40 years ago, she worked at DuBois and King as the “girl Friday” distributing mail, developing photos in a dark room and operating the business’ first computer, which was roughly the size of Gifford’s chapel, she recalls. She went on to do computer work for a local accountant, until retiring in 1991. A decade of volunteering at White River Valley Ambulance in billing followed.
At WRVA, Irene chased down patients and insurance companies for payments.
At Gifford, the only payment a soft spoken, elegant and humorous Irene is seeking is peace of mind.
“I think I could write a book. The experiences have been from very humorous to very sad. I have had a marriage proposal,” she says with a laugh. “I’ve also been in the Garden Room (for end-of-life patients). I don’t want to say it’s my favorite place, but it’s a place where I feel comfortable, when some of the other (volunteers) do not, because I have been there personally, and I totally admire our palliative care system.”
That admiration and an ongoing need for a comforting hand and listening ear will keep Irene volunteering with Gifford’s chaplaincy program as long as she’s able.
“I look at it as a need. It’s a need that’s being fulfilled, which doesn’t happen at all hospitals. It’s part of Gifford’s outreach and caring and the reason why patients want to be here.”
“Long May She Wave” is one of Bethel acrylic artist Janet Hayward Burnham’s pieces in the Gifford Medical Center art gallery in Randolph from May 28 through June 25.
Artist and author Janet Hayward Burnham brings her acrylic and pen and ink works to the Gifford Medical Center art gallery from May 28 through June 25.
Burnham, now of Bethel, was born in Indiana, but never lived there. She went on to live in nine other states, attending 14 schools from kindergarten through college.
Burnham came to Vermont in 1968 with her husband and four children. They bought a farm in the Champlain Valley in Orwell, where Burnham taught art for a number of years and also wrote for Vermont Life.
Burnham was 42 when she graduated with a bachelor’s in fine arts from Castleton State College in 1979. “ … my two teenaged daughters – seated in the crowd – made me grin when they cheered as my name was called out at the graduation ceremonies,” Burnham recalls.
Art was Burnham’s first love.
“I think I’ve loved the art of making art since I picked up my first crayon,” she says. “Art was always my favorite class, bar none … even better than recess.”
She added the written word to her list of loves, and talents, in college.
Castleton was Burnham’s third college. Earlier at Columbia University in New York City in the late 1950s, while married and pregnant, an English professor first brought to light Burnham’s talent. He tasked the class with a first writing assignment. “When he passed the papers back two weeks later, he said we had all done fairly well, but there was one that was so outstanding, he was going to read it to the class. When he began reading, I was absolutely dumbfounded. It was mine. In all those schools I had attended – and some were excellent private schools – nobody ever told me I had a gift for working with words,” Burnham recalls.
“I now had two creative loves – art and the art of words.”
A poetry book Burnham wrote and illustrated, “A Week Ago Cat,” is the combination of those two loves.
Her show features illustrations and poems from the children’s book as well as other more adult pieces, and the book will be for sale in Gifford’s Gift Shop.
In addition to her book of poems, Burnham has been published in Yankee, Grit, The Boston Globe, The New York Daily News, Country Journal, Instructor, The Rutland Business Journal, The Herald of Randolph, and Woman’s World. She also penned two novels published in the United Kingdom that went on to editions in Sweden, Norway and the United States.
More recently, she helped research and was the lone writer of a book for The Bethel Historical Society titled “Vermont’s Elusive Architect George H. Guernsey.”
See Burnham’s unique art in the Gifford Galley. The show is free and open to the public. The Gifford Gallery is just inside the main entrance of the Randolph hospital at 44 S. Main St. Call Gifford at (802) 728-2324 for more information.
This article was featured in ourSpring 2014 Update Community Newsletter.
The Kingwood Health Center in Randolph underwent an expansion in the fall that both improved the Route 66 health center and freed up needed space at Gifford’s downtown campus.
The addition was completed in November and over the winter several Gifford departments made the move to the impressive, new space. Those departments included:
Occupational and speech therapies, which joined outpatient physical therapy on the ground floor of Kingwood
The move of occupational and speech therapies creates a full-spectrum, multidisciplinary rehabilitation center at Kingwood. Added is some gym space, six new exam rooms and improved staff areas.
“Everyone loves the new building,” notes Megan Sault, the rehabilitation department’s operations coordinator.
Having all rehabilitation services in one, convenient location has reduced confusion among patients as to where they should go for their appointment and allows for a collaborative approach to care.
“It’s really great to be so close to team members and share this beautiful facility,” says speech therapist Kathy Carver, who on the day we visited was meeting with patient Terry White of Randolph Center. Terry, who had a stroke, had also seen physical therapy that day, allowing him to make just one trip to Kingwood, and allowing collaboration on Terry’s care.
For others the new location near Interstate 89 is just convenient.
Occupational therapy patient Michael Dempsey of Brookfield was recovering from a broken arm that had left him with shoulder pain. “It’s nice, got a lot of room and is closer to my house. It’s convenient,” Michael remarked.
On the top floor is new office space for accounting as well as billing, or what the medical center calls patient financial services. This is where patients can go to pay their bills or make billing inquiries.
To find the billing office, park in the upper drive and use the door on the left. There are signs inside.
Gifford first bought the Kingwood building in 2007 as an opportunity to expand services. Initially the flat-roofed, dark structure underwent renovations. The new addition seamlessly expanded the structure toward the wood-line.
Also located at the health center are Gifford’s Blueprint Community Health Team, mental health practitioner Cory Gould, the Diabetes Clinic and a private practice dentist, Dr. John Westbrook – all on the top floor.
Call the health center at 728-7100 and listen for options for reaching the various departments.
Health Connections caseworker Michele Packard remains at the main medical center. Michele provides patients help accessing insurance and free care options. (Go in the main entrance at Gifford’s main campus and look for signs to find Michele.)
This article was featured in our Spring 2014 Update Community Newsletter.
It’s not often you find just the right health care provider to join a clinic and a community. The Chelsea Health Center, remarkably, has two amazing new fits.
Dr. Amanda Hepler and physician assistant Rebecca Savidge, both family medicine providers, have joined the Route 110 health center as long-time physician assistant Starr Strong prepares to retire and family medicine physician Dr. Brian Sargent transitions to full-time emergency care at Gifford.
Rebecca is a Chelsea native. Dr. Hepler has a love of rural medicine.
“Dr. Hepler has a passion for rural primary care and will solely be working at the Chelsea Health Center while Rebecca is a young but experienced physician assistant who is a native of Chelsea and literally ‘grew up’ going to the Chelsea Health Center as a child. She truly understands the community,” notes Dr. Josh Plavin, the Medicine Division medical director at Gifford and a former Chelsea doctor.
Chelsea office manager and nurse Travis Worthen notes that patients are excited to have the duo aboard and to see Rebecca “coming back to her roots.”
Dr. Hepler’s experience, especially with the unexpected that can arise in a rural clinic, such as logging and farming injuries, is especially appreciated.
Both are also kind, thorough and accommodating caregivers, says medical secretary Deb Stender.
Dr. Hepler and Rebecca already see themselves as “a lasting fit” and as a team that both works well together and that hopes to improve care. They will do so by being at the clinic for more hours, meaning more opportunities for care and faster turnaround times on things like medication refills and lab results.
They also both have experience working with electronic medical records and are looking forward to seeing Chelsea make the transition, which will be more seamless thanks to their know-how.
“We are excited to welcome our new providers and announce expanded availability in Chelsea,” Dr. Plavin says. “We have developed a wonderful team, which I hope will be caring for patients in Chelsea for years to come.”
An open house was held Thursday, May 1 from 4-6 p.m. at the health center to welcome Dr. Hepler and Rebecca to the community and to wish Starr and Brian well.
Gifford Medical Center in Randolph has been named among the nation’s top 100 performing Critical Access Hospitals by iVantage Health Analytics.
iVantage has developed what it calls a Hospital Strength INDEX and for 2014 measured 1,246 Critical Access Hospitals across the nation on 66 different performance metrics, including quality, patient outcomes and satisfaction, affordability, population health and hospital financial strength.
After weighing all of those factors, Gifford for 2014 has been named among the Top 100 Critical Access Hospitals in the nation – meaning it does well in a variety of areas as compared to its peers.
“Rural health care …. plays a vital role for communities across America, serving nearly 80 million people. The services provided in rural America are similar to those needed in any major metropolitan area, yet the volumes and economic resources provide little economies of scale, making for little benefit from scale. These Top 100 Critical Access Hospitals exhibit a focused concern for their community benefits and needs, regardless of scale, reimbursement and people’s ability to pay,” said John Morrow, executive vice president of iVantage.
Gifford was founded in 1903 and is part of Vermont’s non-profit health system. A 25-bed hospital in Randolph, it has eight outlying health centers meeting community members’ health needs where they live and work.
For the last 14 consecutive years, Gifford has met its state-approved budget and operating margin – a unique feat amid challenging economic times. At the same time, Gifford has embraced community health improvement initiatives that benefit patients, such the Vermont Blueprint for Health and by achieving Federally Qualified Health Center status.
A Critical Access Hospital is a hospital certified to receive cost-based reimbursement from Medicare. This program is intended to reduce hospital closures in rural areas, promotes a process for improving rural health care and focuses on community needs. Federally Qualified Health Centers are also nationally designated, but rather than inpatient care support outpatient primary care, including mental and dental health.
“What is interesting about this evaluation is that it looks at so many different indicators, all publicly available data, and combines them into a comprehensive evaluation. This year factors also grew to include the health of our community – a vital area where Gifford as a Critical Access Hospital and a Federally Qualified Health Center excels,” said Ashley Lincoln, Gifford director of development and public relations.
“These findings tell our community that we not only have a strong, high-quality local health care provider but that Gifford is well positioned for health care reform,” Lincoln added.
Springfield and Copley hospitals in Vermont also made the list.
Officials break ground Tuesday afternoon on Gifford Medical Center’s senior living community in Randolph Center. From left are Dan Smith from builder HP Cummings Construction Co., Gifford nursing home administrator Linda Minsinger, Gifford board Chairman ¬¬Gus Meyer, Gifford Administrator Joe Woodin, Gifford Vice President of Operations and Surgery Rebecca O’Berry and retired Gifford plant operations director Theron Manning.
Amid cloudy skies and unseasonably chilly temperatures, a crowd of more than 100 turned out Tuesday afternoon to show their support as officials from Gifford Medical Center officially broke ground on a much-anticipated Senior Living Community.
For more than two years Gifford in Randolph has been working to gain approvals and move forward with a project that includes the reconstruction of its 30-bed nursing home, the Menig Extended Care Facility, on 30 picturesque acres in Randolph Center. Later phases of the project would include up to 100 independent living units and 20 assisted living beds.
Plans additionally call for renovations at the hospital. Once Menig moves, the current nursing home at Gifford will be renovated into 25 private inpatient rooms for patient safety and privacy. The hospital now has shared rooms.
Gifford earned Act 250 approval for the first two phases of the project – the new 30-bed nursing home and 40 independent living units – last August and Certificate of Need approval for both the new nursing home and hospital renovations from the Green Mountain Care Board in October.
Spring construction was planned and on Tuesday hospital officials along with the contractor HP Cummings Construction Co., architect MorrisSwitzer, and engineer DuBois & King broke ground on the new nursing home.
“It is a great occasion to celebrate this next step,” said Gifford Administrator Joseph Woodin. “To be able to put the shovel to the ground, we’ll remember this.”
Woodin noted the nursing home’s history and track record.
Gifford opened the Menig Extended Care Facility in 1998 after a local for-profit nursing home, 53-bed Tranquility Nursing Home, was “closed” by the state for quality concerns.
Since it has opened, Menig has won numerous state and national awards for quality, including being named one of the country’s 39 best nursing homes in 2012 by U.S. News and World Report. The only nursing home in all of Orange County, Menig has a significant waiting list – about 100 people – for care.
Gifford Administrator Joseph Woodin addresses a crowd of more than 100 at Tuesday’s groundbreaking for Gifford’s senior living community in Randolph Center.
It’s nursing home officials’ hope that by adding assisted living units, some of that waiting list will be diminished. The medical center has also seen community members move outside of the area for independent living options.
Ashley Lincoln, Gifford’s director of development, called the project “both personally and professionally exciting.” “It is an opportunity for Gifford to carry on its tradition of meeting the community’s care needs, and it will allow more of our senior family and friends to remain in the region where they have grown up.”
The project, said Gifford Board of Trustees Chairman Gus Meyer, is a step forward for the hospital and the community.
“It has long been true in health care, if you stand still, you’re going to lose,” Meyer said.
And while Tuesday’s groundbreaking was for the new nursing home phase of the project, the complete plans are what excite Meyer.
“It’s not just a nursing home moving up on the hill. It’s all the renovations that are going to occur at the hospital,” he said, “and independent and assisted living come behind. We’re really excited about that, and we’re really excited to do this in a way that makes sense financially and that makes sense for our communities.
“This is all a part of Gifford becoming even more involved in the health of our communities, … and doing all we can to realize our vision of having the healthiest communities that we can.”
Construction on the new nursing home is expected to take about a year. Renovations at the hospital will follow.
Surrounded by Sharon Health Center staff, podiatrist Dr. Rob Rinaldi cuts a ribbon on the sports medicine clinic’s expansion. Dr. Rinaldi has been with the center since it opened in 2005. This is the second expansion.
When podiatrist Dr. Rob Rinaldi retired to Vermont, he didn’t envision continuing to practice medicine and certainly not for a hospital.
But Dr. Rinaldi found a cause worthy of coming out of a retirement. Working with Gifford Medical Center in Randolph, he helped create not only the vision – but the heart – behind the abundantly successful Sharon Health Center sports medicine clinic.
He has been such a positive influence that on Thursday at a ribbon cutting for an expansion to the health center, Gifford Administrator Joe Woodin unveiled a new sign recognizing Dr. Rinaldi and his Italian heritage. “Casa Rinaldi” reads the sign positioned beside the clinic’s front door.
It brought a surprised Dr. Rinaldi to laughter and tears.
Originally built in 2005, the Sharon Health Center got its start as both a primary care and sports medicine clinic, but quickly the sports medicine practice bloomed. In 2008, a 2,200-square-foot addition was added to the original 2,700-square-foot building.
In October, a third and final planned expansion got under way to better meet patient demand. It was that recently completed expansion, this time 2,600 square feet, that clinic staff and hospital administrators celebrated with a ribbon cutting.
On hand were staff, members of the public, and those involved in the project.
Podiatrist Dr. Rob Rinaldi, right front, reacts to Gifford Administrator Joe Woodin’s, left, announcement that a new sign names the building “Casa Rinaldi.”
Woodin praised the now retired Theron Manning, Gifford’s former director of facilities, as well as the project architect, Joseph Architects of Waterbury, and builder Connor Contracting, Inc.
All three phases of the building have had the same architect and contractor. “The fact that we have a consistent architect and builder, it looks like it has always been there,” Woodin said of the expansion.
“You stand back and look at this building and you can’t tell new from old,” agreed John Connor of Connor Contracting.
And Woodin praised Dr. Rinaldi and the complete Sharon Health Center sports medicine team.
“Thank you,” said Woodin. “You care for patients so well. The stories that come out of here. You save people (from debilitating injuries).”
“This started with a vision,” Dr. Rinaldi explained, noting that since many people have contributed to the health center, but the vision has remained.
That vision focuses on athletes, which Dr. Rinaldi described as “anyone who is doing a consistent exercise to reach a goal.” Sure, he said, the clinic attracts world class athletes on a regular basis. But if someone is walking a dog every day and feeling pain, the clinic is there for that athlete as well.
Overall the goal is to get athletes of all abilities back to the activities they love.
Dr. Rinaldi has been joined in his love of caring for athletes over the years by physical therapists, chiropractor Dr. Hank Glass, sports medicine physician Dr. Peter Loescher, certified athletic trainer Heidi McClellan, a second podiatrist, Dr. Paul Smith, and, the latest addition to the team, a second chiropractor, Dr. Michael Chamberland. A second sports medicine physician is expected to join the practice in September.
The first addition added physical therapy gym space and X-ray technology. This latest expansion adds more gym space, a third physical therapy treatment room, four new exam rooms, a start-of-the-art gait analysis system and wall mounted flat screens for viewing ultrasounds.
Visit the Sharon Health Center, a.k.a. Casa Rinaldi, at 12 Shippee Lane, just off Route 14, in Sharon. Call 763-8000.
This article was featured in our Spring 2014 Update Community Newsletter.
Gifford renews its decades-long focus on providing area women 24/7 midwifery care with the addition of two new midwives.
Certified nurse-midwives Maggie Gardner and April Vanderveer have recently joined Kathryn Saunders and Meghan Sperry at Gifford Ob/Gyn and Midwifery in Randolph and the Gifford Health Center at Berlin. Certified nurse-midwives are advanced practice nurses specially licensed to practice midwifery and board certified.
Nurse-midwives plays an essential role in providing women’s health care throughout life, including at birth. This unique commitment to midwifery care is what attracted Maggie and April.
“The institution’s commitment to midwifery goes beyond just the midwives in the office. It’s the nurses in the Birthing Center, the layout of the Birthing Center itself where moms labor, birth and stay post-partum in the same room, and the administration’s commitment to making the practice successful,” said Maggie of the state’s oldest Birthing Center of its kind.
The strongest component of Gifford’s unique program is woman-centered care.
“The team is committed to women-centered care and respect for each family’s unique needs during pregnancy and childbirth,” April explains.
“We have longer visits than many other prenatal clinics, meaning we take the time to really listen to women about their concerns and questions,” April said.
And as mindsets over birthing have changed, the practice has changed with it.
“We are the oldest midwifery practice in the state of Vermont with a solid commitment to birth with women, encouraging women to decide how they want to birth. We move with the times. That is, we have everything from non-medicated births and water births to women who desire medication such as epidurals,” noted Kathryn.
In 2013, 14 percent of midwifery patients chose to have an epidural and 10 percent chose an intrathecal. Sixty-five percent of patients had natural births.
“We believe in a woman’s body’s ability to have a natural birth, but we also respect women who choose otherwise,” Meghan said. “We do not judge. We care and are open to the ideas of our clients.”
Local artist Gene Parent’s watercolors, pen and ink drawings, pastels and more are in the Gifford Gallery until May 28.
Largely self-taught, Parent is a fourth-generation Vermonter who spent his youth in Richmond. He now lives in Brookfield with his family.
A member of the Vermont Watercolor Society, The Pastel Society and The Paletteers, Parent brings of diverse show of Vermont landscapes, farm animals and more in a variety of media.
Perhaps best known for his watercolors, he has received many first and second place awards for his works. He has shown throughout northern Vermont, including solo shows at Copley Woodlands in Stowe, the Cobblestone Café in Burlington, LaBrioche in Montpelier, the Chelsea Public Library, the Kellogg-Hubbard Library in Montpelier, the Good Shepherd Episcopal Church in Barre and at Gifford.
“Art brings me intimately closer to everything I paint, from the rustling leaves to the flutter and song of little birds, the subtle sounds of running water and the distant mournful calls of a fledging crow,” Parent says. “I enjoy several media. Watercolors are the most exciting and challenging and pen the most fun, followed by pencil sketching.
Parent’s show is free and open to the public. The Gifford Gallery is just inside the main entrance of the Randolph hospital at 44 S. Main St. Call Gifford at (802) 728-2324 for more information.
Chelsea Health Center patient Roger Sargent of Tunbridge chats with his new physician assistant, Rebecca Savidge.
The metaphorical passing of the baton at the Chelsea Health Center Thursday afternoon was reminiscent of the perfect race. There was unparalleled effort, emotion and cheers of support.
On Thursday Chelsea welcomed new caregivers Dr. Amanda Hepler and Rebecca Savidge, both family medicine providers, and said goodbye to Dr. Brian Sargent and physician assistant Starr Strong.
Dr. Sargent is transitioning to full-time Emergency Department work, something that will allow him more time for sugaring, pruning apple trees and deer hunting, he said.
Strong is retiring after 21 years.
Ernest Kennedy of Chelsea hugs retiring Chelsea Health Center physician assistant Starr Strong. To Kennedy, Strong is more than the local caregiver. She was the dear friend of his daughter Judy Alexander, who lost her battle with cancer on Sunday.
Community-owned, the health center is part of Gifford Health Care. Gifford Medicine Division Medical Director, and former Chelsea doctor, Josh Plavin introduced the outgoing and incoming teams.
Dr. Hepler comes to Chelsea from New Hampshire and, before that, a very rural practice in Maine. She was looking to find that again and has in Chelsea. “It’s been great so far. Everyone’s been very welcoming,” said the warm hearted Dr. Hepler.
“I think you grew up in this clinic,” Dr. Plavin said of Savidge.
“With Dr. Plavin,” she replied, indicating he was her caregiver.
Gifford Medicine Division Medical Director Dr. Josh Plavin introduces new Chelsea family physician Dr. Amanda Hepler.
“Which is not making me feel old at all,” he said.
Savidge practiced in Plainfield before coming home to Chelsea. “I appreciate the community letting me come back to the community as a provider,” she said to the standing room only crowd gathered in the health center’s waiting room.
Savidge thanked Dr. Sargent and Strong for building such an outstanding clinic and acknowledged that she and Dr. Hepler had some big shoes to fill.
The crowd laughs as Dr. Brian Sargent says a warm goodbye to Chelsea patients. He has transitioned to full-time Emergency Department work at Gifford.
“I want to thank you all for trusting me with your care. Like Amanda, I’ve felt very welcome,” said Dr. Sargent who has practiced in Chelsea for five years.
But even for Dr. Sargent, the day was about Strong. “She’s (Strong has) been a joy to work with and a good friend. You won’t find a more compassionate person on the planet,” he said.
“Starr taught me about community,” Dr. Plavin added. “Starr taught me about relationships, as well as medicine, and is really the rock that has been the continuous presence all of this time. Starr is the Chelsea Health Center.”
Starr Strong, retiring Chelsea physician assistant, is embraced by patient Virginia Button of Chelsea.
Her patients who were present – and there were many – agreed.
“She’s been my doctor forever,” said Roger Sargent, a Tunbridge resident who has already transitioned his care to Dr. Hepler and Savidge. “I think she (Strong) has a nice lady taking her place, two of them.”
Virginia Button embraced Strong and didn’t let go.
“I’ve been with Starr since she’s been at the health center,” she said, tearing up. “It’s like you’ve lost part of your life.”
Gifford President Joe Woodin and Starr Strong share a laugh.
But Button was optimistic.
“I’m sure the two that are here will fill her shoes,” she said, “eventually.”
Ernest Kennedy gave Strong three hugs. One for himself, one for his wife and one for his daughter, the late Judy Alexander, Strong’s dear friend and a former nurse at the Chelsea Health Center who passed away Sunday and whose loss was felt at Thursday’s gathering.
Kennedy was there to offer his support for Strong, who moved into Alexander’s home during a final days to provide constant vigil, but he wasn’t exactly supportive of Strong’s decision to retire. “She’s not old enough, and we need her.”
Strong disagreed, but not before expressing her thanks for the community’s support.
“I can’t tell you how rich I feel. I’m more grateful than I can tell you. The relationships we have when we go in and sit down and close the (exam room) door; that is a sacred spot.”
She is finally able to step away from those relationships, she says, because she is leaving her patients in the “graceful, beautiful and knowledgeable hands” of Dr. Hepler and Savidge. “It gives me joy in my heart rather than sadness in my soul,” Strong said.