Gifford’s 2014 Highlights: April – June

The following article appeared in our 2014 Annual Report.


Gifford volunteersGifford employee Cindy Legacy, who shared her weight loss story in the 2013 annual report, starts a popular “Weight Loss Support Group” at Gifford on Wednesday evenings.

Gifford volunteers are celebrated at a luncheon. In 2013, 120 volunteers gave 16,678 hours to Gifford or 2,085 eight-hour days. Auxiliary volunteers working at the Thrift Shop gave another 6,489 hours or 811 eight-hour days. The celebration’s theme was “Hats Off to You.”


Gifford is named a Top 100 Critical Access Hospital in the nation by iVantage Health Analytics. iVantage used what it calls a Hospital Strength INDEX to compare Gifford against 1,246 Critical Access Hospital nationwide on 66 different performance metrics.

Starr StrongStarr Strong retires from the Chelsea Health Center after 21 years. She was the first physician assistant Gifford ever hired. An open house recognizes both Starr’s contributions and welcomes new providers to the clinic, which is packed for the event.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and officials from the Health Resources and Services Administration release a video holding up Gifford as a national model for primary care.

Casa RinaldiSharon Health Center staff members cut a ribbon on their newly expanded health center. Added are 2,600 square feet and a sign beside the front door declaring the building “Casa Rinaldi” in honor of podiatrist Dr. Rob Rinaldi who helped create the vision behind the popular sports medicine clinic.

New technology is also offered, such as a state-of-the-art Noraxon gait and movement analysis system, and a large wall-mounted monitor for a better look at live ultrasound imaging.

senior living facility groundbreakingGround is broken on a much-anticipated senior living community in Randolph Center. More than 100 are on hand to witness the start of the first phase of the project — a new, 30-bed nursing home to replace the current Menig Extended Care Facility.

A second “Infant and Child CPR” course is held, along with a second “Home Alone and Safe” course, a second “Babysitter’s Training Course” and another “Quit In Person” group smoking cessation series.

“Low Impact Water Aerobics for Chronic Conditions” is offered at Vermont Technical College’s pool for free for those with an economic need and chronic condition who are struggling to exercise.


Project IndependenceGifford announces that it will merge with Barre adult day program, Project Independence, at the end of September. Project Independence is the state’s first adult day program and serves 23 towns in Washington and northern Orange counties, providing an essential community resource.

The non-profit organization was facing financial struggles following flooding in 2011. A merger with Gifford means shared staff and reduced costs for the organization, allowing it to keep operating. The boards of both non-profits agreed to the merger in May.

Gifford renovationsGifford is the first hospital in Vermont to “go live” with the Vermont Department of Health interface for syndromic surveillance. The interface is part of federal meaningful use criteria.

Renovations begin on Gifford’s third floor specialty clinics to group medical secretaries, nurses, and patient waiting for improved efficiency and a modern model of care.

Gifford’s 2014 Highlights: January – March

The following article appeared in our 2014 Annual Report.


Gifford's first baby of 2014The first baby of the year is born to Casandra Perry of Bethel. Baby Bryden is welcomed on Jan. 2 at 3:48 a.m.

A “Matters of the Heart” series is offered monthly all year long for heart patients, or anyone looking to improve his or her heart health. Also offered: Chronic Conditions Support Group, Caregiver Support Group, Diabetes Group Education Classes, childbirth classes, and a new Mood Disorder Support Group.

A “Quit In Person” tobacco cessation class helps those addicted to smoking or other tobacco products to quit.

A “Chronic Pain Healthier Living Workshop” is offered at the Randolph House. The six-week free series addresses coping with chronic pain.

Alison WhiteExperienced nurse leader Alison White joins Gifford as vice president of patient care services – a role that oversees the Hospital Division, including inpatient care, the Birthing Center, Ob/Gyn and Midwifery, the Emergency Department, Menig nursing home, and Adult Day Program.

After considerable input from providers, staff, and clergy, the Gifford board passes a policy implementing the Patient Choice at End of Life law. The policy allows willing primary care providers to prescribe lethal prescriptions but prohibits use of such prescriptions in the hospital setting.


An educational event shares Gifford’s “Vision for the Future” with Corporators. The vision focuses in part on constructing a senior living community in Randolph

Gifford Medical Center AuxiliaryThe Gifford Medical Center Auxiliary awards $19,000 to various Gifford departments, including equipment for inpatient units, pulse oximeters for primary care offices, play equipment and furniture for The Robin’s Nest Child Enrichment Center, and a handheld scanning device for Materials Management.

Dr. Robert CochraneExperienced hospitalist Dr. Robert Cochrane joins Gifford’s hospitalist (inpatient care) team.

An “Infant and Child CPR” class helps new parents and families learn lifesaving techniques.

A “Home Alone and Safe” course teaches children 8-11 how to respond to home alone situations.


A “Babysitter’s Training Course” is held for area pre-teens and teens seeking greater expertise in safe child care.

Dr. Michael ChamberlandChiropractor Dr. Michael Chamberland joins the Sharon Health Center sports medicine team.

A “Healthier Living Workshop” series begins, providing the chronically ill free information on improving their health.

A second “Quit In Person” tobacco cessation class is held, this time at the Gifford Health Center at Berlin.

Vermont Health ConnectGifford’s Health Connections office and Blueprint for Health team partner with Bi-State Primary Care to offer free help signing up for Vermont Health Connect. Help is available each weekday, but on March 6 and March 13 extra “navigators” come to Gifford to help even more people sign-up in advance of a March 15 deadline.

Diabetes Education ExpoGifford’s annual Diabetes Education Expo is merged with a Health Fair for all chronically ill and offered on March 14.

Gifford holds its 108th Annual Meeting of its corporators, announcing achievements of 2013, unveiling a new video about Gifford, and hearing a special presentation from Green Mountain Care Board Chairman Al Gobeille. Corporators elected Matt Considine of Randolph to the board and re-elect Lincoln Clark of Gifford corporatorsRoyalton. Grants were announced, including $25,000 in William and Mary Markle Community Foundation funds to 10 area towns’ schools to support exercise and healthy eating programs. The Philip D. Levesque Memorial Community Award, in memory of Gifford’s late president, is awarded to the Orange County Parent Child Center.

Gifford staff raise $520 for the March of Dimes by wearing “Blue Jeans for Babies”.

April VanderveerGifford’s mammography and nuclear medicine departments earn three-year, national re-accreditations from the American College of Radiology.

Certified nurse-midwife and women’s health nurse practitioner April Vanderveer joins Gifford’s 24-hour midwifery team.

Guiding the Future of Rural Health Care

The following article appeared in our 2014 Annual Report.

Gifford volunteers

Back (left to right) Linda Morse, Peter Nowlan, Sheila Jacobs, Paul Kendall, Matt Considine, and Lincoln Clark. Front: Jody Richards, Barbara Rochat, Gus Meyer, Dr. Ellamarie Russo-DeMara, Randy Garner, Sue Sherman, Joe Woodin, Carol Bushey, and Linda Chugkowski. Not pictured: Bill Baumann, Fred Newhall, and Bob Wright.

Volunteer board leads Gifford with vision, passion and energy

2014 was a year of great excitement for Gifford, as several projects moved from the planning stage into actual implementation. Our FQHC status, new senior living community, and the much-needed upgrade for inpatient rooms are all visible signs of Gifford’s readiness for quality community care in a larger landscape of changing healthcare reform.

Each of these accomplishments was built on years of behind-the-scenes planning. None of them would have been possible without the dedicated work of our 16 volunteer board members, who last year alone collectively gave more than 2,500 hours of their time to meetings and subcommittee activities. Board members bring passion and energy to the challenge of balancing the work that translates our mission (providing access to high-quality care to all we serve) with anticipating and planning for future healthcare needs.

“Gifford is woven into the fabric of this community. For more than 100 years generations have had the benefit of local access to quality care,” says board secretary Robert Wright, who was born at Gifford and now lives in Brookfield. “Gifford has been able to maintain that identity and also grow with the times, attracting highly skilled people and successfully investing in the equipment and facilities needed to provide the quality of care that people expect.”

Board members are recruited from across the community and have worked in various businesses and civic organizations. This diverse perspective keeps Gifford’s vision grounded in the community it serves, with a distinctive small town commitment to quality.

Board work is demanding, but members say learning about the hospital and participating in decisions that will shape the future of healthcare in their community is rewarding.

“It is by far the most rewarding volunteer activity that I have ever done,” says Randolph resident Randy Garner. “Gifford has shown me the model of being an actively engaged board member, and seeing the results of the board’s actions is extremely gratifying.”

Others want to give back to their community: “I joined the board because Gifford is community focused, a small town hospital that provides excellent healthcare and uses the latest technology,” says Northfield resident Linda Chugkowski. “I feel proud and privileged to be promoting the hospital during these troubled health care times.”

The job description for a Gifford board member might read: part planner, policy-maker, visionary, realist, promoter, cheerleader, and community advocate. It requires the ability to bring a pragmatist’s eye to sustaining robust primary care and a visionary’s openness to future possibilities. When asked what makes the institution unique, you’ll get the clear answer of a realist:

“Gifford is unique in that they are a small Critical Access Hospital and FQHC facility with niches that they do better than anyone else, like primary care, podiatry and sports medicine,” says Brookfield resident Carol Bushey. “They will never compete with the large hospital, but they will continue to do what they do better than anyone long into the future.”

But new possibilities and future community roles for Gifford are always part of the planning:

“I am excited to see the direction Gifford is going with the senior living community and hope that this continues to all levels so Randolph will have a place where folks can comfortably live out their lives,” says Garner. “Gifford will continue to be on the forefront of quality care with a small town feel.”

15 Years Financially Stable

Working together to achieve not only a healthy community, but a healthy company

The following article appeared in our 2014 Annual Report.

Gifford budget

Gifford staff pose with VP of Finance Jeff Hebert (center left) and Administrator Joe Woodin (center right) to celebrate achieving budget.

In a feat not replicated by any other hospital in Vermont, Gifford achieved its state-approved operating margin for the 15th straight year, closing the 2014 fiscal year books with a three percent margin.

As a fiscally stable medical center, community organization, and employer, Gifford has been able to consistently provide care and services without facing cuts and uncertainty.

This achievement is especially remarkable this year, given the many healthcare changes and an equally challenging economic climate.

“By managing our expenses and the budget process, we’ve once again met our state-approved operating margin goals,” said Jeff Hebert, vice president of finance.
“Consistently maintaining a steady operating margin — the money the medical center makes above expenses — is an indicator of an organization’s fiscal health and allows us to continue to invest in new clinical programs, equipment, staff, and facilities.”

A Message from the Medical Staff President Dr. Ellamarie Russo-DeMara

The following article appeared in our 2014 Annual Report.

Medical Staff President Dr. Ellamarie Russo-DeMara

Medical Staff President Dr. Ellamarie Russo-DeMara

As president of the Medical Staff I have witnessed firsthand the hard work and dedication not only of our medical team, but of all those behind the scenes who make Gifford a place where patients are a priority.

With economic and healthcare issues front and center in our daily news, it’s reassuring to work for an organization that is fiscally stable without sacrificing quality of care. I know I speak for the entire health care team when I say how fortunate we are to have our new FQHC designation, which will allow us to provide much needed dental and mental health services to our community.

Gifford continues to lead the way in its vision for the future of providing quality care for our community. At the forefront of that vision is the creation of a new Senior Living Community, where our seniors can be cared for in a home-like setting.

As part of this process we are fortunate to be able to “rejuvenate” our existing space into private, more comfortable rooms that will allow us to improve the efficiency and quality of the care we offer our patients.

It has been an exciting year of planning and creating new ways to provide access to the high-quality care we offer through all stages of life—from newborn through to nursing home resident.

A Vision for the Future: Meeting Tomorrow’s Health Care Needs

A message from Development Director Ashley Lincoln

Ashley Lincoln

Above: Ashley Lincoln, Development Director, and Vision for the Future Campaign Committee members Dr. Lou DiNicola (Co-chair), Linda Chugkowski, and Lincoln Clark (Co-chair) at the site of Gifford’s new Morgan Orchards Senior Living Community.

Since outreach began, a little over 18 months ago, many generous donors have stepped up to pledge $3 million for Gifford’s “Vision for the Future” campaign.

This $5 million capital campaign will support patient room upgrades and a new senior living community, improvements that will help us continue to provide the best possible community health care for years to come.

This impressive early support—from members of the business community, Gifford’s volunteer board of Trustees and Directors, former trustees, medical staff, employees, the Gifford Medical Center Auxiliary—is already having an impact.

The beautiful new Menig building that you’ve watched growing in Randolph Center will open in May as an anchor for the new Morgan Orchards Senior Living Community. Soon after, renovation of the vacated hospital wing begins, creating 25 new single-patient rooms that will improve patient privacy, allow state-of-the-art technology to be brought to the bedside, and create an environment that promotes and speeds the healing process.

Humbled and energized by this wonderful start, I can now officially announce that our “silent phase” ended on Saturday, March 7, with the public launch of our “Vision for the Future” campaign at the medical center’s 109th Annual Meeting of Corporators.

Over the years our community has generously supported Gifford through many evolutions. Moving forward we will need everyone’s help to raise the remaining $2 million by the end of 2015. Our goal of $5 million may seem lofty, but this campaign will help us address unprecedented challenges and opportunities in health care.

Providing quality medical care in the hospital and our nine community health centers is central to our mission. We care for patients locally, eliminating the need to travel—sometimes over mountains, often in treacherous winter conditions. Over the years we have invested in state-of-the-art technology, retained high quality staff, and adopted a hospitalist model that helps us care for sicker patients. Modernizing our patient rooms is a next step in improving patient comfort and providing the best care.

A real community concern is a lack of living and care options for our seniors. As our friends and neighbors age and are looking to downsize, we want them to stay where they have grown up, worked, raised their family, and built relationships. Each individual is a piece of our community quilt: when one leaves, it starts to fray.

Your support for this project will help us sustain our community’s health—and protect our “community quilt”—with the very best care, from birth through old age, for another 110 years.

Space that Speeds the Healing Process

One patient per hospital room is good medicine. Here’s why…

The following article appeared in our 2014 Annual Report.

individual hospital rooms

Semi-private rooms offer little privacy or space for patients, their families and
hospital staff. Private patient rooms will alleviate the overcrowding that is typical of shared rooms.

The reality of a shared hospital room is that you don’t get to choose your roommate.

“We do our best to match up personalities and scenarios and illnesses and infection issues,” says Alison White, vice president of the hospital division, “but there are things like having a roommate who is a night owl and you like to be in bed by 7:30. If we need a bed and your room happens to be that one empty bed, you get who you get.”

The new reality at Gifford is that every hospital patient will soon have a room of their own as part of a construction project that received its final okay in October 2013. In spring 2015, when 30-bed Menig Extended Care moves to Randolph Center, the hospital will begin converting the vacated wing. The number of rooms for hospital patients will double while the number of hospital beds—25—remains the same, a ratio that guarantees maximum comfort and safety. The renovations are also an opportunity to open up ceilings, replace old systems, and improve energy efficiency.

“When patients are recovering from surgery or from illness, they want what they want,” says Rebecca O’Berry, vice president of operations and the surgical division.

“Sharing a room with somebody else just doesn’t work for most patients. From the surgeon’s point of view, if I’ve just replaced your total hip, the last thing I want is for you to be in a room with someone who might be brewing an infection.”

White names several other factors, besides the risk of infection, that have helped make private rooms the standard in hospitals today. Among them:

Faster healing: Studies show that patients who are in private rooms need less pain medication because they’re in a more soothing environment. If your roommate has IV pumps that are going off, or the nurse has to check your neighbor every one or two hours—which is very common—the lights go on, the blood pressure machine goes off, the nurse has to speak with the person in the bed next to you. With private rooms, all that is removed.

Ease of movement: Our rooms were built before the current technology existed. IV poles didn’t exist. We now have people with two or three pumps. With today’s technology there’s no room to move around. When you have two of everything—two chairs, two overbed tables, two wastebaskets—it creates an obstacle course.

Better doctor-patient communication: As professionals, we don’t always get the whole story because the patient doesn’t want to be overheard by his neighbor.

Patient satisfaction: Larger rooms, each with a bathroom, will give patients additional privacy and enhance the patient experience. It’s a win-win for everybody.

A Message from Board Chair Gus Meyer

The following article appeared in our 2014 Annual Report.

Gifford Board Chair Gus Meyer

Board Chair Gus Meyer

What a momentous year it’s been! Things we had been planning for years came to fruition in 2014. Even as these fundamental changes in our organization have taken place, Gifford has maintained its remarkable fiscal stability and continued our steady growth in the proficiency, professionalism, and breadth of service that we provide.

In 2015, we anticipate completion of the nursing home, renovation of the space that Menig now occupies, expansion of mental health and dental services associated with the FQHC, and full implementation of the EMR, along with ongoing commitment to fiscal responsibility and improvement in quality of care.

These accomplishments are all the more amazing because they have been achieved in a very uncertain health care environment. While Governor Shumlin has suspended planning for single payer health care, many other aspects of health care reform continue. For example, accountable care organizations are now in development, with the goal of changing from fee-for-service to covered lives reimbursement.

How these changes get implemented will have profound impact on how medical decisions are made, as well as how and where care is delivered. In the coming year, as we pursue the internal strands mentioned above, we will also maintain our active involvement in the health care reform planning process, working to ensure that Gifford’s patients continue to have the highest quality, locally provided health care possible.

Going Digital

The following article appeared in our 2014 Annual Report.

converting to electronic medical recordsFlashback to March 2014. Gifford’s switch to electronic medical records, the industry standard, has been in the works for a couple of years. The challenge: To complete the transition before spring 2015, when government penalties are due to kick in. For the shift to occur, providers—doctors and other medical professionals—will have to learn to use the system. This learning will be put to the test in front of patients. A prevailing sentiment: “I was really hoping I’d retire before we got around to doing this.”

“EMR came out of the Affordable Care Act as a sort of a mandate for us,” says Gifford Administrator Joe Woodin. “We had some electronic files and file management in the past, as many hospitals do, but now there’s a clear mandate of completing that loop, and the government has given us economic incentives to do it, as well as economic penalties if we don’t. So like every other hospital in the country, we’ve been passionately working on this for a couple of years.”

When we think of doctors, we think of clipboards and script pads and cheap ballpoint pens. We think of scrawly handwriting. With the shift to EMR, doctors who were used to scribbling notes on charts and sending them to medical transcriptionists were being asked to give up those tools and plug in the data electronically. VP of Finance Jeff Hebert likens the task to mastering Excel when you’ve been doing spreadsheets by hand for years.

“To add more complexity,” says Hebert, “the product was a brand-new one for our hospital vendor; they redesigned it and we were the first to be going live with it. So in addition to my Excel analogy going on with our providers, CPSI was introducing us to a product that they weren’t that familiar with because they had just created it.” Across the health-care system, a piecemeal electronic infrastructure that lacks standardization—unlike, say, the banking system—did nothing to make the task easier.

By March, pediatrics was trained and ready to go. The first wave of physicians began walking into exam rooms hugging their new laptops. Office visits slowed.

Gifford's electronic medical records

“A lot of organizations have found that transitioning to EMR affects their productivity and some of their morale,” says Woodin. “It asks a lot of the providers and the patients. The challenge would be equivalent to going metric or if you were asked to speak a different language.”

Over the summer, primary care joined the campaign. Neurology, surgery, and other specialists stepped up in the fall.

Meanwhile, providers and patients were starting to experience the benefits of the new system.

“Electronic medical records will allow our organization to be fully integrated across the continuum of care, from inpatient to outpatient to pharmacy—the whole thing. And it’s going to allow us to better care for you. If you walk into the ER and you’re a patient in our Bethel clinic, the ER can pull up your record from this morning—it’s already there,” says Rebecca O’Berry, vice president of operations and the surgical division.

“So if you’re a poor historian—meaning, for instance, that you can’t remember what pills you take or whether you’ve had your gall bladder out—or you just know that you saw somebody today and you still don’t feel well, they can pull it up, whereas before we had nothing. If it’s seven o’clock at night, you can’t call Bethel and say, ‘Hey, I need you to pull this record and read to me what happened.’ There’s no delay, no lag time waiting for dictation. For somebody who has had care and needs more care within the next day or two of their last visit, everything’s there, and that’s the beauty of it.”

By the end of the year, providers were settling into their new routine and at least some of the kinks had been worked out of the new system.

“We’ve done a good job,” said Woodin. “We’re working through it. There are always improvements to be made.”

Recognizing Employee Commitment

Annual Employee Awards

The following article appeared in our 2014 Annual Report.

Members of our Gifford family were recognized at the Employee Awards Banquet on October 18 at Vermont Technical College for their years of service. (Employees are recognized in five-year increments.)

Congratulations to these individuals and thank you to all for your dedication and service.

annual Gifford employee awards

Diane Alves
Teresa Bradley
Amy Chiriatti
Eric Christensen
James Currie
Tammy Dempsey
Lyle Farnham
David Gehlbach
Tammy Gerdes
Marjorie Gewirz
Thom Goodwin
Lindsay Haupt
Cathy Jacques
Thomas Maylin
Megan McKinstry
Loretta Miller
Michael Minchin
Susan Moore
Megan O’Brien
Martha Palmer
Heather Pejouhy
Rella Rice
Matthew Shangraw
Paul Smith
Meghan Sperry
Debra Stender
Thomas Young

Lori Barrett
Jamie Cushman
Amy Danley-White
Jennifer Davis
Nancy Davoll
Cynthia Legacy
Patricia Manning
Rhonda Schumann
Rebecca Jo Ward
Lisa Young

Kathrine Benson
Sadie Lyford
Shelley McDonald
Kathleen Paglia
Dessa Rogers
David Sanville
Linda Sprague
Joseph Woodin
Carol Young

Kenneth Borie
Louis DiNicola
Milton Fowler
Betsy Hannah
Jean Keyes
Cheryl McRae
David Pattison

Dawn Beriau
Karin Olson
Renee Pedersen
Kathi Pratt

Judith Santamore