Local Candidates’ Debate Oct. 21 in Randolph

local candidates' debateThe White River Valley Chamber of Commerce and Gifford Medical Center are collaborating to bring a local candidates’ debate to Randolph on Tuesday, Oct. 21.

Invited to the debate are Orange County senate candidates and candidates vying for two different House of Representative districts.

In the Senate race are Mark MacDonald, the Democratic incumbent, and challenger Robert Frenier, a Republican. One seat is up for grabs.

MacDonald of Williamstown is a farmer and former teacher who served a term in the Senate in the 1990s and has then held the post since 2003. Frenier is a Chelsea business owner.

Orange-Washington-Addison state representatives Patsy French and Marjorie Ryerson, both Democrats from Randolph, are facing Republican challenger Charlie Russell of Randolph Center. Two seats serving the towns of Roxbury, Granville, Brookfield, Braintree, and Randolph are on the ballot.

French has served since 2003 and is a former teacher and co-manager of rental property with her husband. Ryerson, a poet, writer and editor, was appointed by the governor a year ago following the death of former Rep. Larry Townsend. A former dairy farmer, Russell is running a write-in campaign.

In the Orange-Windsor-1 district, incumbent Democrat Sarah Buxton is facing Republican David Ainsworth, a Royalton dairy farmer who held the seat from 2007-2010. Buxton of Tunbridge, a regional coordinator for the Building Bright Futures Council, has filled the seat since 2011 – twice before beating Ainsworth in incredibly narrow races, including one election that was decided by just one vote. The lone seat represents Royalton and Tunbridge.

Buxton is trying to rearrange her work schedule to attend. All other candidates have confirmed they will be attendance.

Gifford Administrator Joseph Woodin will serve as moderator for the debate and Chamber Director Emma Schumann will assist him.

The event starts at 6 p.m. Those in attendance are invited to submit questions and enjoy refreshments from 6-6:30 p.m. The debate will be from 6:30-8 p.m. in the Route 12 hospital’s Conference Center. In addition to audience members’ questions, the debate is expected to focus on business and health care.

“Our state representatives and senator are our voices in Montpelier. As we near the election, it is important to give these individuals who are striving to represent us a chance to share their views and tell us why we should choose them on Nov. 4,” said Schumann. “We hope our communities’ members turn out to ask questions and hear our candidates’ positions on important local and state issues.”

This is the first – and possibly only – debate the candidates will face in Randolph.

The medical center is located at 44 S. Main St. in Randolph. The Conference Center is marked with a green awning. For handicapped accessibility, use the main entrance and take the elevator to the first floor.

Last Mile Ride Raises $60,000

Last Mile Ride

Runners take off for the Last Mile Ride 5K and walk on Friday at Gifford in Randolph. (Provided/Janet Miller)

Fueled by compassion, 154 runners and walkers, 201 motorcyclists and 38 cyclists gathered at Gifford Medical Center on Friday and Saturday for the Last Mile Ride, raising $60,000 for area residents in life’s last mile.

Now in its ninth year, the Last Mile Ride has grown to a two-day event that includes a timed 5K, one-mile walk, 38-mile cycle ride and 80-mile motorcycle ride. The annual event raises money for Gifford patients in and out of the hospital who are in advanced illness or at the end of life. Money raised at the ride goes directly to help patients with comfort measures, provides financial support to patients and families, and grants special wishes.

Last Mile Ride

Cyclists leave for the Last Mile Ride on Saturday. (Provided/Janet Miller)

This year marked both a record number of participants – 386 in total – and a record amount of money raised. It was also an event fraught with emotional highs and lows.

The event included a Harley-Davidson raffle. Cody Flanagan, 19, from Barre won the bike from Wilkins Harley-Davidson, but wasn’t there to receive it. He is in Afghanistan.

His father, Tim Flanagan, a respiratory therapist at Gifford, who bought two tickets in Cody’s name accepted on his behalf. The older Flanagan got out that his son was in Afghanistan before breaking down. He received a standing ovation.

Last Mile Ride

Motorcyclists wind their way through central Vermont as part of the Last Mile Ride on Saturday. (Provided/Alison White)

“I was just ecstatic and overwhelmed for Cody,” Tim Flanagan said Monday. “I just felt it was a storybook kind of finish. It was meant to be.”

Cody, a medic airborne ranger, who graduated from Spaulding High School a year early, joined the U.S. Army two years ago at age 17. He has been in Afghanistan a month. His battalion just lost a member on Aug. 12 and has been on an emotional low.

Tim Flanagan called his son in Afghanistan from the ride to tell him he had won. It was around midnight there and he was exhausted, but excited. “He’s quite ecstatic. He’s thrilled,” said his father, noting it has been a morale booster for the unit.

The moment was reminiscent of the cause, which uplifts families in difficult situations.

Last Mile Ride

Margaret Gish of Sharon races back toward Gifford in the fastest among a female at 20:49.7. (Provided/Janet Miller)

Robin Morgan spoke at the 5K and walk on Friday evening. She lost her step-father Michael Durkee to an aggressive cancer in May 2013. He spent his last days in the Garden Room – Gifford’s garden-side end-of-life care suite.

“Being in the Garden Room, we all got to be together. They were so supportive of us,” Morgan said. “They gave us food, (and) everything you can possibly imagine.”

Morgan and her family walked in the Last Mile last year and again this year. Morgan pushed her two young children in a double-stroller. “It (the Last Mile Ride) is a big part of my life now,” she said, before rushing to embrace her mom and Michael Durkee’s widow, Joan Durkee.

Last Mile Ride

Last Mile walkers return to Gifford Friday evening. (Provided/Janet Miller)

Palliative care nurse John Young on Saturday at the motorcycle and cycle ride spoke of the privilege of working at a hospital that supports palliative care and how lucky the hospital is to have the community’s support.

Physician assistant Starr Strong remembered her friend Judy Alexander who was “an incredible nurse, wonderful friend and mother.” A “Harley chick” and past participant of the Last Mile Ride, Alexander died in April of cancer.

Her family received assistance from the Last Mile Ride fund.

Last Mile Ride

Philip Tenney of Northfield walks over the finish line of the Last Mile Ride 5K. He came in last (1:00:14.0) but was first in many participants’ eyes. Three weeks earlier he had a lifesaving kidney transplant. (Provided/Alison White)

“It made her passing much richer because of the support from the Last Mile Ride,” Strong said, encouraging those present to recognize both the importance of their contribution “because you never know when it’s your turn” and to “celebrate life.”

The event also included the raffle of a bicycle from Green Mountain Bikes in Rochester. Richard Polarek, 88, from Brookfield won the bicycle. And a queen-size quilt made by Gifford nursing staff was won by motorcyclist Cherry Lloyd of Randolph.

Prizes were also given out for the events top fund-raisers and the top 5K finishers.

The fastest male finishers were Christopher Gish of Sharon (16:37.9), David Mattern of Tunbridge (18:47.6) and Zachery McDermott of Randolph (20:26.0). The fastest female finishers were Margaret Gish of Sharon (20:49.7), Becky Olmstead of Bethel (23:58:4) and Stacy Pelletier of Braintree (24:11.7). See a full list of race results online at www.begoodsports.com/race-results/.

Last Mile Ride

Smiling motorcyclist

The top 5K fund-raiser was Kyla Grace of Randolph and the top walk fund-raiser was Penny Maxfield of East Roxbury. The top cyclist fund-raiser was Cory Gould of Worcester. And the top motorcycle fund-raisers were Linda Chugkowski and Robert Martin of Northfield who collectively raised $4,000 for the cause and Reg Mongeur of Randolph who raised more than $3,500.

Mongeur spent many evenings at Shaw’s in Randolph collecting for the cause.

“I have the time and the desire,” said Mongeur of why he made the effort. “I’ve lost quite a few family members in the Garden Room and quite a few vets went through there.

“It’s just my way of giving back to the community,” said Mongeur, who also coordinated road guard efforts for the ride as a member of the Combat Veterans Motorcycle Association Chapter 26-2.

Last Mile Ride

Runners, from front, Richard Kozlowski, Stacy Pelletier and Becky Olmstead race along Route 12 toward Beanville Road. (Provided/Alison White)

This year’s ride, he said, was “beautiful, absolutely gorgeous.” Riders returning it called it “the best.”

As top fund-raisers, Chugkowski and Martin won four Red Sox tickets and VIP tour of Fenway thanks to the generosity of the Red Sox and Froggy 100.9. Mongeur won four tickets to the New Hampshire Motor Speedway to see the Sylvania 300 thanks to the generosity of the Loudon, N.H., organization.

Many other prizes were given out, thanks to the generosity of local and regional businesses. The event also received record sponsorship support, including from major sponsors The Frankenburg Agency, Froggy 100.9, Lucky’s Trailer Sales, Northfield Savings Bank and Wilkins Harley-Davidson.

The 10th annual Last Mile Ride will be Aug. 14 and 15, 2015.

A Spoonful of Thanks: Message from the Development Director

The following is an excerpt from our 2013 Annual Report: A Recipe for Success.

spoonful of thanksGifford’s is a story steeped in tradition, and one that has only grown more positive in recent years. As director of fund-raising efforts, telling that story of a small hospital making it and improving year after year despite the odds is such a privilege.

In 2013, that is even more true. We’re celebrating another year of major achievements, including “making” budget, earning Federally Qualified Health Center status allowing us to soon provide enhanced primary care to the community and receiving all approvals needed to move forward with the construction of a Senior Living Community in Randolph Center and private inpatient rooms at Gifford.

In 2014, moving forward on our Senior Living Community and private patient rooms will become a major focus for the Development Office, Development Committee and our new Campaign Steering Committee.

These committees are comprised of hardworking volunteers. The project has already generated much excitement from both donors and from community members hoping to one day make this community home.

Over time, the Senior Living Community will include the Menig Extended Care Facility nursing home, independent living units and assisted living units. This vision allows our friends and neighbors to age in place rather than leaving their community for similar housing.

Constructing the nursing home, building infrastructure for the entire community and creating private inpatient rooms, however, will take community support. This support is already being demonstrated among the Gifford community, including our Auxiliary, Board and Medical Staff, and soon will be an exciting public campaign where community members can help make this project a reality through financial investments.

Ours is a community that supports its hospital and patients. We continue to have remarkable success each year with our annual fund and once again we have raised a record amount in support of end-of-life care through the Last Mile Ride – our charity motorcycle ride held each year on the third Saturday in August. Participants, volunteers and local business sponsors make this event possible and so positive for our hospital and community. We look forward to continuing and growing this (now) Randolph tradition in 2014.

As always, there are many ways to support Gifford – as a donor, as a patient, as an employee and as a volunteer both at the medical center and through the Auxiliary. I welcome your inquiries on how you can become involved in our story of success and in bettering patients’ lives.

~ Ashley Lincoln, Director of Development

Project Independence Finds New Life in Gifford

Project Independence

Project Independence participants, from left, Marie, Diana and Kathy dance to singing and music by a visiting Chris Beltrami (not shown).

BARRE – The state’s first adult day center, Project Independence, got its start in Barre in 1975 when a nursing home activity director, Lindsey Wade, recognized an opportunity to do things better and more cost effectively.

Wade encountered nursing home residents who didn’t seem to medically belong there. Others were visiting the nursing home daily for the social interaction. Wade had an idea. The area needed an adult day care and not a medical model adult day, but a social model – something that didn’t exist anywhere else in the country.

An active board and an interested city brought to life Project Independence on Washington Street and in the decades since, its model has not only flourished but expanded statewide. There are currently 14 adult day programs in Vermont.

Project Independence

Project Independence Executive Director Dee Rollins visits with participants, from left, Flo, Gail, Beverly and Shirley as they wait to be served a home-cooked lunch that included baked macaroni and cheese and flavorful carrots.

Today’s Project Independence serves 23 towns in Washington and northern Orange counties, welcoming an average 38 seniors and the disabled each weekday. The project includes meals, showers, medication management and ample activities, allowing them a fun and safe day care experience while also allowing them to stay at home – a far more affordable model than nursing home care.

But statewide adult days are struggling. Funding available for adult days almost guarantees failure. “The Adult Day financial model is not a successful one,” says Project Independence Executive Director Dee Rollins. “It’s a continued struggle to support our model.”

And Project Independence has had some recent extra hurdles.

It bought a North Main Street location and moved in 2010. Less than a year later, in May of 2011, the building flooded during a period of torrential rains that had storm water draining through a bulkhead into the building’s basement causing $295,000 in damages and losses. The following summer a sewer hookup issue during Barre’s “Big Dig” caused backups and additional damages and losses.

Project Independence

Gifford licensed nursing assistant Penny Severance helps Project Independence participant, Maddie, to her table for lunch.

Between those losses and looming health care reform that promises changes to health care funding and encourages health care relationships, small, standalone Project Independence began looking for help in the form of a partner. It found it in Gifford Health Care in Randolph.

A merger
Project Independence of Barre and the Gifford Retirement Community, part of Gifford Health Care in Randolph, will merge at the conclusion of Gifford’s fiscal year on Sept. 30. Boards for the two nonprofit organizations unanimously agreed to the merger in May after studying the relationship for more than a year.

It will be a full asset merger with Project Independence retaining its name, location and fund-raising dollars. Project Independence’s board will become an advisory board to provide local perspective and experience, and employees will become part of Gifford, opening the door to enhanced benefits. Project Independence will benefit from Gifford’s staff, from financial to billing to nursing help, as well as its buying power as a larger organization.

For Project Independence it is an opportunity for financial stability and more amidst what have been a stormy couple of years and the projected financial changes under health care reform. For Gifford, it is an opportunity to further its work to support seniors and to partner with a reputable organization.

“It’s the right thing. It’s the right match. We have the right partner,” says Rollins, who was drawn to Gifford because it has its own adult day, the Gifford Adult Day Program in Bethel, shares a mission of supporting seniors and because of the Randolph hospital’s commitment to community.

Project Independence

Tammy Mattote, left, a licensed nursing assistant at Project Independence in Barre, serves participant Joanne lunch.

Gifford is currently building a senior living community in Randolph Center that will include a new nursing home and independent and assisted living units after seeing a need in the community for these services.

The Randolph medical center also already has services in the Barre area in the form of a health center off the Airport Road in Berlin. The Gifford Health Center at Berlin is home to family medicine, pediatrics, internal medicine, infectious disease, midwifery, orthopedics, podiatry, neurology and urology services.

“The combination of the two of us makes a lot of common sense and a lot of business sense,” Project Independence Board Chairman Steve Koenemann said, calling his board’s vote a very easy one to make and the plan “a no-lose proposition.”

“The goal is try to see the program grow,” Koenemann said. “We don’t want to change Project Independence. It has nearly 40 years of experience and reputation serving that community that’s not something that you want to back away from.”

“It’s not taking away anything from Project. It’s all additions,” added Rollins.

Gifford employees have already been providing support to Project Independence over the last year as the two organizations have carefully studied a merger.

Project Independence

Project Independence staff pose in front of the North Main Street adult day center in Barre. The center will merge with Gifford Health Care in Randolph this fall.

“When someone has a humble request for help as it relates to the delivery of health care services, we take that seriously,” said Gifford Administrator Joseph Woodin, praising Project Independence’s board, values, volunteers and hardworking team. “For us, that’s extraordinarily appealing and we’re thankful that they’ve asked us.”

“We feel this is an honor that they asked,” agreed Linda Minsinger, Gifford Retirement Community executive director. “This is the right thing to do. It’s really important that these participants have a place that will carry on.”

Joining with Project Independence is in keeping with Gifford’s mission and providing support to a needed service that will no doubt grow as the state looks for more affordable ways to care for a growing senior population, said Gifford Board Chairman Gus Meyer.

“When you’re a very small organization, you don’t have the staff to do all of the different things to be done. It’s extremely difficult and it’s extremely draining to make an organization of that size successful. They’ve done a great job of keeping their organization alive in the face of huge challenges and at the same time provided a great service,” Meyer said. “A larger organization is much more able to absorb things that just come up. If there’s some facilities’ damage, it doesn’t become devastating.”

That is a scenario that has Project Independence breathing a sigh of relief.

“We are just all so encouraged. This just brings a true breath of fresh hope,” Rollins said. “We’re dancing in the streets.”

Well, maybe in the living room.

Project Independence participants – most of whom think of their home away from home as “the club” not an adult day center – let up a cheer upon hearing the news from Rollins that “the club” would merge with Gifford.

Staff members, who have been part of what have been very transparent discussions, were equally enthusiastic.

Cook Pam Bresette of South Barre said, “I think it’s going to be fabulous.”

Office Administrator Sue Catto of Barre took her job a year ago knowing positive changes were coming.

Licensed nursing assistant Amanda Koledo of Barre hopes to go to nursing school. Gifford provides tuition reimbursement.

Koledo has worked at Project Independence for six years. “I think it’s so exciting,” she said. “We’re on an island and we’ll now have life jackets.”

A New Family Medicine Team in Chelsea

Chelsea teamThis 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 Named a Top 100 Critical Access Hospital in the Nation

Gifford facadeGifford 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.

Gifford Breaks Ground on Senior Living Community

Randolph senior center

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.

Randolph senior living

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.

Sharon Health Center Expands

Podiatrist Dr. Rob Rinaldi

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.

Casa Rinaldi

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.

Casa Rinaldi

“Casa Rinaldi”

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.

Gifford Mammography, Nuclear Medicine Programs Earn National Accreditation

Gifford's radiology team

Members of Gifford’s breast care team pose in this file photo. They are, from left, certified breast sonographer Terri Hodgdon, certified mammogram technologist Cheryl Jewkes, board certified radiologist Dr. Scott Smith, certified breast sonographer Kim Nelson and patient care navigator Brittany Kelton.

Gifford Medical Center’s mammography and nuclear medicine departments have both been awarded three-year reaccreditations by the American College of Radiology.

The American College of Radiology calls their recognition the “gold seal of accreditation” and notes it represents the highest level of image quality and patient safety.

The accreditation is awarded only to facilities meeting American College of Radiology practice guidelines and technical standards after a peer-review evaluation by board certified physicians and medical physicists who are experts in the field. Assessed are image quality from actual patient images taken (without sharing patient names), personnel qualifications, facility equipment, quality control procedures and quality assurance programs.

Quality control procedures include daily, weekly and monthly checks of machines to determine they are functioning optimally.

Gifford submitted its records for review for reaccreditation for both mammography and nuclear medicine in January and heard back on March 26.

The recognition, says Nuclear Medicine Manager Tera Benson, tells patients “we’re dedicated to providing the best quality image.”

In addition, it ensures that Gifford is following not just what it deems the best standards for care, but national standards for care.

“We are fortunate to receive a lot of positive feedback from patients regarding the courtesy of our staff or the speed with which we complete exams like mammograms. This accreditation is a recognition of all the work that occurs behind the scenes to ensure patients not only have a great experience, but the highest quality imaging as well,” said Director of Ancillary Services Pam Caron, who praised her team’s hard work.

According to the American College of Radiology’s Web site, Gifford is one of seven Vermont facilities with an accredited nuclear medicine program. The closest other programs are larger hospitals in Burlington and Rutland, as well as Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in New Hampshire. A greater number of mammography programs are accredited.

A Message from the Board Chair

The following is an excerpt from our 2013 Annual Report: A Recipe for Success.

Gus Meyer

Gus Meyer

The theme of this year’s Annual Report is a Recipe for Success. Without question, Gifford had that recipe in 2013! We continued to gain great recognition for what we’ve done, while taking major strides to position ourselves to do even more in the future.

In 2013, as we awaited permits for the senior retirement community, we undertook important expansions to the Kingwood and Sharon health centers. Ultimately, the senior retirement Act 250 permits and Certificate of Need were granted, making us ready to break ground for the new nursing home in the spring of 2014, with independent and assisted living options to follow. Moving the nursing home will enable us to renovate our inpatient unit, with single-patient rooms that will significantly improve health safety and comfort for patients using that facility.

In addition, we earned designation as a Federally Qualified Health Center. This will enable us to expand our core commitment to primary care, including new initiatives and collaborations to extend dental and mental health services to underserved areas.

gallon of leadershipAs we have pursued these plans for the future, Gifford has continued its commitment to patient care and furthering the health of our communities. We are extremely proud that Dr. Lou DiNicola was given the Physician Award for Community Service by the Vermont Medical Society. We are delighted that Major McLaughlin was named the national Outstanding Senior Volunteer. We are humbled by the continued recognition of the Menig Extended Care Facility.

As we reflect on these accomplishments and look forward with tremendous anticipation to 2014, it is an honor for the Board to serve an organization that continually goes above and beyond. Even as we experience constant change in today’s health care environment, we have great confidence that Gifford’s ever-evolving recipe will generate success this year and for many more to come.

Gus Meyer
Board Chair