Naturopath Offering Prenatal Series at Gifford

Erica Koch

Erica Koch

Naturopathic physician Dr. Erica Koch leads a Prenatal Health Series at Gifford for pregnant women and expectant families beginning May 15.

The series includes four Thursday classes that participants can take individually or as a whole. They are “Nutrition during Pregnancy” on May 15, “Herbal Medicine, Vitamins and Minerals during Pregnancy” on May 22, “Movement and Regeneration” on May 29 and “Mind/Body Medicine” on June 5.

“Nutrition during Pregnancy” covers eating well, meeting nutritional needs, food as medicine, environmental toxins and chemicals to avoid, food cravings and how to address them, and how to shop for food.

“Herbal Medicine, Vitamins and Minerals during Pregnancy” looks at nutrients to promote and maintain good health, and manage symptoms such as headaches, muscle spasms, fatigue, nausea and constipation. It also looks at herbs to avoid during pregnancy and breastfeeding.

“Movement and Regeneration” with guest teacher Amy LePage focuses on yoga sequences to improve energy, relieve discomfort, aid in digestion and prepare for birth. The class also teaches breathing exercises to encourage relaxation and reduce stress.

Finally, “Mind/Body Medicine” teaches stress reduction and how to build resilience, increase awareness and support labor. It gives participants the tools to begin a daily self-care practice.

“These classes are for anyone who is interested in promoting health during pregnancy and managing symptoms naturally. The goal is to empower people with the knowledge and practices of a healthy lifestyle. Pregnant women have different needs and knowing how to address them in a safe and effective way is important. Women who are trying to conceive, who are pregnant, their partners and practitioners are all welcome to attend,” said Dr. Koch.

Dr. Koch is an experienced naturopathic doctor, educator, gardener and co-founder of Whole Systems Health, a non-profit organization focusing on nature-based education, health and resilience. She earned her doctor of naturopathic medicine degree from the National College of Natural Medicine, where she completed advanced training in women’s health and midwifery. She also holds a master’s degree from Rutgers University.

The classes will be held from 5-8 p.m. at Gifford in The Family Center beside Gifford Ob/Gyn and Midwifery at 38 S. Main St. (off Route 12) in Randolph.

Dr. Koch offers a sliding scale fee of $50-$75 for each class plus a $10 materials fee. E-mail her at erica.koch.nd@gmail.com to sign up or with questions.

Pioneer Physician Assistant Retires

Starr Strong blazed a new role for 21 years at Chelsea Health Center

Starr Strong

Starr with a baby

Physician assistant Starr Strong retires on May 1 after 21 years at the Chelsea Health Center. Robin Palmer, a former journalist who now does marketing at Gifford, sat down with Strong this week to get her reflections on her career and two decades of commitment to the Chelsea community.

CHELSEA – Starr Strong took a meandering path to health care.

Raised in Connecticut, she studied eastern religion at Beloit College in Wisconsin and went on to travel in India and Nepal and work a variety of jobs, including for a childhood lead prevention program in Massachusetts and counseling troubled teens.

A self-described hippie, wherever she went she found a cabin in the woods to live with her dog, usually with no electricity. She “played pioneer,” she said.

She contemplated a career in social work, but after traveling found herself drawn to a relatively new career – that of a physician assistant.

Despite a complete lack of experience in medicine, as a white person traveling in India and Nepal she was often called upon by villagers to help with illness, she said. “They bring you their wounds. They bring you their sickness. I found that I loved it.”

Duke University had started the first physician assistant program following the Vietnam War for returning medics looking to put their skills to work, Strong recalled. Wake Forest University in North Carolina was one of the schools to follow. Strong entered physician assistant school at Wake Forest in 1979.

Coming home to Vermont

Starr Strong

Starr with a patient in 1996

She came to Vermont in 1981 while in physician assistant school to do what the industry calls a clinical rotation – like an internship – with local ob/gyn Dr. Thurmond Knight and midwife Karen O’Dato. It was not her first experience in Vermont, however.

Strong calls growing up in Connecticut “a mistake.” “I knew that I was so supposed to be here,” she said.

Strong’s family came from Brookfield. As a child they would visit the family homestead several times a year. Strong recalls her mother telling at her the end of one trip when she was 5 or 6 that is time to go home. “But I am home” was Strong’s reply.

Strong is the sixth generation to own that Brookfield property, where she still lives with husband John Button and one of her two children, Dylan, 28. Twenty-four-year-old daughter Maylee lives in Chelsea.

When she first came home to that old farmhouse with no running water, Strong envisioned a job at Gifford in Randolph, but long-time hospital Chief Executive Officer Phil Levesque told her no, repeatedly.

“I knocked on Gifford’s door every year,” said Strong. She repeatedly heard that the Medical Staff just wasn’t ready for a physician assistant, and might never be.

The hospital had just one private practice nurse practitioner affiliated with it at the time. The concept of a physician assistant – now commonplace in the industry – was completely new.

Starr Strong

Starr in 1996

Strong went to work for Planned Parenthood for a dozen years. She worked mostly in Barre doing gynecological exams and talking about birth control. But still she knocked on the door.

The door to Gifford edges open
In early 1993, the door creaked ajar. The hospital agreed to trial Strong in Chelsea a day and a half a week alongside new physician Dr. George Terwilliger, who had replaced retiring physician Dr. Brewster Martin.

Strong was Gifford’s first physician assistant and the first female health care provider at the Chelsea Health Center.

Martin made sure Strong stuck.

“He was incredible,” she recalled. He introduced her around time, advocated for her and he came during many a lunch hour to the Route 110 health center to chat.

The duo formed a mentor-mentee relationship and a strong friendship. They’d save up stories and thoughts to share. They talked about suffering and loss, life and death, and whatever they found funny.

“He was the wisest person I’ve known in my life. It was quite a blessing and I don’t use that word very often,” said Strong.

What she remembers most was that he would ask her thoughts on a subject.

“He gave me confidence,” she said. “I had so much respect for him that him asking me what I thought was enormous.”

Starr Strong

Starr in 2008


Soon Strong was working at other Gifford health centers, including in Bethel, at the student health center at Vermont Technical College, in Randolph and recently in Berlin. Chelsea, however, has been a constant.

She promised Martin she would stay in Chelsea for 20 years. This year marks 21.

Just the right fit in Chelsea
Strong found a home at the Chelsea Health Center.

“Chelsea’s an old time family community and people are fiercely independent and have a lot of pride. If they don’t have anything, it doesn’t matter. It’s down to earth,” Strong said.

For a woman loath to “lipstick and high heels,” it was just perfect.

And like with Martin, she formed relationships there.

“Medicine is not just a science. Medicine is an art and it’s about relationships and it’s about developing relationships with people,” she said.

Those relationships have come with generations of patients and with co-workers like nurse Judy Alexander, who became the closest of friend.

“She just made me laugh. I could call her at 4 o’clock in the morning and she would be at my house at 4:30, and you don’t get that in life often.”

Starr Strong

Starr with friend and patient Judy Alexander in 2012

Alexander is also a patient of Strong’s – a patient who is in the very end stage of terminal cancer. Like so many of her patients, Strong has been at Alexander’s bedside.

“At the beginning of my career, I thought birthing was my ticket and then I took care of a dying person and found that that is really where the juice is,” she said, noting the courage one witnesses in illness and death.

Alexander’s illness and waiting for just the right new providers to join the Chelsea Health Center in her place have in part kept Strong working past that 20 years she promised Martin.

A new chapter
But now she is ready.

Strong is 62, struggles with pain caused from arthritis in her spine and is slowing down. “I don’t have that vitality anymore,” she said.

And she wants to be home. Her husband has been building a new house on that family homestead in Brookfield. “I want to be there to finish it, and have the time to move in.”

She wants to travel and ski and kayak and garden and make stained glass and spend more time with her 95-year-old mom.

She can do all this because of family medicine providers Dr. Amanda Hepler and physician assistant Rebecca Savidge. Like Strong did 21 years ago, they have joined the Chelsea Health Center.

Dr. Hepler comes from Maine and has a passion for rural medicine and Savidge is a Chelsea native. They’re skilled and compassionate and plan on staying for a very long time. Strong couldn’t be happier.

“Once patients meet them, they’re going to love them,” Strong said.

In fact, they’re so great to be around that Strong anticipates a few visits to Chelsea of her own.

“Now I’m going to be the lunchtime girl,” she said, thinking back to those lunches with the retired Martin.

Wish Strong well in her retirement and meet Dr. Hepler and Savidge at a May 1 open house being held from 4-6 p.m. at the Chelsea Health Center that is open to all.

Gifford Offering a Variety of Trainings Focused on Children

Gifford eventsGifford Medical Center is offering a handful of upcoming trainings aimed at children and families.

On Thursday, May 8, the Randolph hospital will offer a non-certification Infant and Child CPR course for families, friends and caregivers of babies and children. Classes are presented by an instructor certified by the American Heart Association. The free class is from 6-8 p.m. Call 728-7710 to sign up.

On Saturday, May 10 from 9:30 a.m. to noon will be a training for children ages 8-11 called “Home Alone and Safe.”

Designed by chapters of the American Red Cross, this course is offered by instructor Jude Powers and teaches children how to respond to home alone situations, including Internet safety, family communications, telephone safety, sibling care, personal and gun safety, and basic emergency care. Children will role play, brainstorm, watch a video, take home a workbooks and handouts, and earn a certification upon completion.

The cost to participate is $15. Call Powers at 649-1841 to join.

And then on Saturday, May 17 from 9:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. a Babysitter’s Training Course will be offered. Again offered by Powers, the course teaches budding babysitters how to be safe, responsible and successful. It covers good business practices, basic care, diapering, safety, play, proper hand washing, handling infants, responding to injuries, decision making in emergencies, action plans and much more.

Communication skills are emphasized along with being a good role model, and participants receive a certification card upon completion of the course and reference notebook to take home.

There is a $20 fee to participant and participants should bring their lunch. Call Powers at 649-1841 to join.

All these events are being held in The Family Center, beside Gifford Ob/Gyn and Midwifery at 38 S. Main St. (Route 12) in Randolph. Registration is required as seating is limited.

For more information and directions, visit www.giffordmed.org.

Hats Off to Gifford Volunteers

Volunteer Appreciation Luncheon

Pictured here, from left, are volunteers Irene Schaefer and Phyllis Roberts.

Gifford Medical Center’s hats were off, well technically on, in recognition of its volunteers at an annual appreciation luncheon Monday. The “Hats Off to You” hat-themed event welcomed 70 of Gifford’s hospital and Auxiliary volunteers.

In all, Gifford had 120 volunteers in 2013 who gave 16,678 hours to the non-profit medical center, or 2,085 eight-hour days. Auxiliary volunteers working at the Thrift Shop gave another 6,489 hours, or 811 eight-hour days.

Volunteer Coordinator Julie Fischer noted that the number of volunteers and volunteer hours was remarkable. “We are amazing,” she said.

Volunteer Appreciation Luncheon

Pictured here, from left, are volunteers Beth Kittel and Joan Granter.

In recognition of their year of service, volunteers were treated to a delicious lunch, door prizes from 17 area businesses, favors, accolades, a presentation from hospital president Joseph Woodin and even an impromptu round of singing “You Are My Sunshine” from managers working as servers at the event.

Managers, wearing hats in appreciation of the volunteers, came from different areas of the hospital and offered heartfelt thanks.

“Thank you for helping to enrich the lives of the residents,” said Terry MacDougal, Menig Extended Care Facility activities director. Menig is Gifford’s nursing home.

Volunteer Appreciation Luncheon

Pictured here, from left, are volunteers Donna Bosworth, Shirley Russell and Elizabeth Mahaffy.

“What you bring is just enormous,” agreed Menig Director of Nursing Brooks Chapin.

Volunteers were thanked for their remarkable gift of time, for offering support to staff as well as patients, for their warm smiles and for their hugs. “You bring peace, comfort and stability to the organization,” Woodin said.

Woodin went on to share the latest on Gifford’s plans to build a senior living community in Randolph Center and private inpatient rooms at the medical center. Gifford hopes to break ground on the first phase of the project, a new nursing home in Randolph Center, next month.

Volunteer Appreciation Luncheon

Pictured here, from left, are volunteers David and Lori Peirce.

Volunteers were enthusiastic about the plans, which have already garnered remarkable support from the Gifford Auxiliary. The Auxiliary has pledged $650,000 to the project.

One other remarkable achievement of 2013 for Gifford volunteers was the recognition of Major Melvin McLaughlin as Vermont’s and the nation’s Outstanding Senior Volunteer. McLaughlin earned a round of applause from his fellow volunteers.

Businesses generously donating door prizes and favors to the volunteers were Belmains, Blue Moon, Central Supplies, Chef’s Market, Cockadoodle Pizza Café, Dandelion Acres, Holiday Beauty Salon, Onion Flats, Randolph Village Pizza, The Harrington House, Tozier’s, One Main Tap and Grill, Bethel Village Sandwich Shop, Sidewalk Florist, Drop Dead Gorgeous hair salon, the Aiken family of Bethel and Freedom Foods.

Randolph Couple Brings Images of Southwest to Gifford Gallery

Arny and Cil Spahn have long background in photography

Arny and Cil Spahn

As they prepare to hang their exhibit in the Gifford Medical Center gallery, Arnold and Priscilla Spahn hold up photos they took in the Southwest. Priscilla’s photo is of a Navajo weaver in Gouldings, Utah. Arny holds a photo of what is known as “the left mitten” in Monument Valley, Utah.

Randolph couple Arnold “Arny” and Priscilla “Cil” Spahn present images of their travels to the Southwest in a joint photography exhibit at Gifford Medical Center March 26 through April 30.

The Spahns have been taking photographs since they were very young; Cil since she was 7 and Arny since age 9.

Born in Providence, R.I., Arny joined the U.S. Air Force at age 18 and then went on to work in Danbury, Conn., building high voltage test equipment. It was there that his talents in photography were recognized, and Arny became the company photographer and also technical writer.

Cil was raised in Connecticut and as a teenager won a number of awards for her photography. When the photography teacher at her high school became ill, Cil was asked to step in. At age 16, she did black and white photofinishing at a local camera shop and took photographs to accompany an article submitted to a national architectural magazine. She says she often wondered if the magazine editors knew the photographer was a teen.
In college at Skidmore, she both photographed and wrote for the school paper, moving up to managing editor her senior year.

Cil and Arny met volunteering as “flaggers,” or safety workers, at race tracks with the New England Region Sports Car Club of America. Cil was one of the first women course workers at tracks in Lime Rock, Conn., and Sebring, Fla.

A photography course in South Woodstock at the Doscher Country School of Photography paid for courtesy of Arny’s GI Bill of Rights first brought the couple to Vermont in 1971. Inspired by the course and the Green Mountain State, they settled in Vermont and opened a photography business first in Brookfield and then in Randolph, Bridge Hill Studio, running it together until retiring in 1997.

As part of their business, they rejoined the sports car racing world as licensed freelance photographers, taking and selling thousands of action photographs to racers and publications. They are also both past presidents of the Vermont and New England Professional Photographers Association and were both trustees of the New England Institute of Professional Photography.

Today, they are active in their community as board members of the Randolph Rotary, The Clara Martin Center and The Citizens Advisory Board for Reparative Justice.

A hobbyist woodworker, or wood turner, Arny continues to write and photograph for The Woodchuck Woodturners of Northern Vermont as their newsletter editor.

The couple also enjoys traveling, specifically Elderhostel or Road Scholar educational tours. They have been taking the tours since they retired almost two decades ago. A recent trip took them to Arizona, Utah and New Mexico, where they visited scenes from Tony Hillerman’s fictional stories of Navajo people. Those scenes from the Southwest make up their exhibit at Gifford.

“What we fell in love with about the Hillerman Country was the Navajo’s basic desire to be in harmony with their world. It’s a concept they call ‘hozho,’ and in their prayers, they ask only to walk in beauty. When you travel through much of Arizona, Utah and New Mexico, physical beauty is all around you,” notes the couple in a write-up on its trip, displayed as part of the exhibit.

The exhibit is free and open to the public. The Gifford gallery is located just inside the hospital’s main entrance at 44 S. Main St. (Route 12) in Randolph. Call Gifford at (802) 728-7000 or Volunteer Coordinator Julie Fischer at (802) 728-2324 for more information.

Gifford Staff Raise $520 for March of Dimes

Blue Jeans for Babies

Blue Jeans for BabiesGifford Medical Center employees raised $520 for the March of Dimes by wearing “Blue Jeans for Babies” on Friday.

The Randolph medical center and its outlying health clinics participate each year in March in the fund-raiser, which allows employees who donate $5 to the March of Dimes to wear jeans to work for the day.

This year more than 100 employees participated.

The March of Dimes is the nation’s leading non-profit organization for pregnancy and baby health. It raises funds through a variety of events to help prevent birth defects, premature births and infant mortality.

Roger Clapp, March of Dimes Vermont Chapter director, thanked hospital employees for their participation in the fund-raiser and – as a medical center with a renowned Birthing Center – for their work toward healthy births. “The March of Dimes recognizes the care and commitment to excellence among the Gifford Medical Center team that contributes to Vermont’s national lead in healthy birth outcomes. We’re particularly thankful to be able to reinvest the staff’s fund-raising proceeds to give every baby in Vermont a healthier start,” Clapp said.

“Gifford is pleased to be able to partner with the March of Dimes on initiatives to support prenatal and infant health,” said Robin Palmer, a member of Gifford’s Marketing Department who organizes the hospital’s effort. “Employees are truly excited to both support a cause close to our hearts and wear jeans to work. It’s something we look forward to all year.”

Other businesses wishing to wear “Blue Jeans for Babies” can contact the March of Dimes here in Vermont at (802) 560-3239.

Gifford is also a sponsor of the central Vermont March for Babies walk upcoming on May 4 at Montpelier High School. Sign-up online at www.marchfordimes.com/vermont or by calling.

Weight Loss Support Group Starting at Gifford

Cindy Legacy

Cindy Legacy poses with Gifford registered dietitian Stacy Pelletier. Legacy of Randolph lost 110 pounds and is now starting a weight loss support group at Gifford to help maintain her own weight loss and help others on their journey to becoming healthy.

After losing 110 pounds, Cindy Legacy of Randolph is launching a weight loss support group at her workplace – Gifford Medical Center – to help keep the weight off and help others on their weight loss journeys.

The first meeting, which is free and open to all, will be Wednesday, April 9 from 6:30-7:30 p.m. in the Gifford Conference Center.

Legacy has some goals for the group, including providing educational resources, occasional speakers, discussion, support, walking and activities. There won’t be weigh-ins, or judgment, however.

“I don’t care what you weigh. It’s none of my business,” says Legacy, who rather wants to help anyone, at any stage in his or her effort to lose weight and have a healthier lifestyle.

But she is also interested in finding what participants want and what meeting times work best. That will be part of the first meeting. She’s envisioning weekly, evening meetings to follow.

No registration is required to attend.

For more detailed directions and more information, visit www.giffordmed.org.

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.

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.