Gifford and Project Independence merger official

Two organizations solidify commitment
to the care of area seniors

Dee Rollins and Linda Minsinger

Project Independence executive director Dee Rollins joins ribbons with Linda Minsinger, Executive Director of Gifford Retirement Community.

On September 30th, Project Independence and Gifford Retirement Community, part of Gifford Health Care in Randolph, officially merged in a ceremony and celebration held at the Barre-based adult day program.

The ribbon joining ceremony was attended by representatives from both organizations, participants and their families, dignitaries, and special guests, including Project Independence founder Lindsey Wade.

The merger comes after years of struggle for the independent adult care program, Vermont’s oldest, which faced flood recovery efforts in 2011 in addition to other facility issues and financial woes.

“It is very hard in these changing times in health care for a stand-alone nonprofit to make ends meet,” says Project Independence executive director Dee Rollins. “Merging with Gifford allows us to be off the island with more supports and resources so we can grow our services for our elders and caregivers. Gifford is the right and best partner Project Independence could imagine.”

While still responsible for their own bottom line and fundraising efforts, Project Independence now has the resources and backing of the financially stable Gifford to help maintain ongoing services.

Joe Woodin, Dee Rollins and Steve Koenemann

Gifford CEO Joe Woodin officially welcomes Project Independence to the Gifford family, shaking hands with board president Steve Koenemann and executive director Dee Rollins.

And the center is already experiencing the benefits of being part of a larger organization through savings in expenses and access to a wider range of resources.

For example, Project Independence is now able to utilize purchase point buying for a savings on supplies and groceries while also benefiting from the services of established Gifford departments such as billing, payroll, human resources, marketing, and others.

For Gifford, the merge is an opportunity to expand on its commitment to the region’s seniors. Already home to an award-winning nursing home and a successful adult day program located in Bethel, Gifford has a strong foundation in caring for the aging.

It’s a foundation they are building upon with the creation of a senior living community in Randolph Center. This new community will include a nursing home, assisted living and independent living units.

Construction on the campus began this past spring with work focusing on infrastructure and the building of a new Menig Extended Care facility, the 30-bed nursing home currently connected to the main hospital.

Current Menig residents are expected to transition to the new facility when construction is completed in the spring of 2015, a time that will also see the ground breaking of the first independent living facility.

Putting locals to work in Randolph Center

Senior living community progressing

This article was published in Gifford’s Fall 2014 Update Community Newsletter.

Randolph senior living community

When Gifford conceptualized and received all necessary permits to construct a senior living facility in Randolph Center, it was certain that local people would benefit. The region’s seniors would have a local place for nursing home care, independent living, and one day assisted living.

What wasn’t necessarily known when the project went out to bid in the spring, however, was how many other locals might benefit.

Randolph senior living communityThe crew at W.B. Rogers Inc. is a prime example. The local excavation contractor bid for and won the job to do the site work for the first phase of the project.

The project is the biggest in manager Geoff Gilman’s time with the family business, even trumping the eight miles of Bethel roads the company rebuilt immediately following Tropical Storm Irene.

W.B. Rogers Inc. got its start more than 40 years ago in 1968. Today, three generations work with the company, along with plenty of others. With 16 employees, W.B. Rogers brought on extra staff to work on Gifford’s project, which began in May. “We’ve employed quite a few more people,” Gilman said.

“Everybody who works for us lives in Randolph or a surrounding town, so it’s really keeping the income right here in this area,” added Gilman, whose father Charlie owns the business.

As community members pass by the site on Route 66 in Randolph Center, many have been surprised by the amount of equipment on site. Others have been surprised it’s locally owned. W.B. Rogers, which does jobs from the very small to the very large, owns about two dozen pieces of equipment, from excavators to loaders to backhoes to bulldozers to dump trucks.

Randolph senior living communityWith equipment stored in Randolph and an office in Bethel, Gilman notes a local contractor is also the contractor you know. He’s readily available, has built a reputation through his previous work at Gifford and many other local projects, and works hard to do a good job for his community.

“I take pride in my work. I like to see everything look nice. I treat these jobs like they are my own,” Gilman said.

After a long summer in the sun, he’ll also be glad to be done with it. “I was glad to get it. I’ll be glad to finish it,” he said.

W.B. Rogers will be on-site on the property until the ground freezes, finishing some grading and building an access road and then return in the spring for final grading and seeding.

The first phase of the project, which is the reconstruction of Gifford’s 30-bed Menig Extended Care Facility nursing home on the site, is expected to be done by May 2015.

The project began this May. Since then, water and sewer lines, drainage pipes, fire hydrants, light pole bases, and power have all gone in. Concrete has been placed, walls have gone up, and the site is getting ready for a winter of interior work.

Once complete, nursing home residents will move from their current home at Gifford to the new nursing home. The current facility will then be renovated into new industry-standard private inpatient rooms.

Later phases of the senior living community call for first 40 independent living units and then more independent living units and assisted living units to follow.

For Gifford, employing local contractors like W.B. Rogers means supporting not just seniors but the local workforce.

“Gifford is successful when our community is successful. It’s a partnership, and we do try very hard to be a good community partner,” said Gifford Director of Facilities Doug Pfohl.

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

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.

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.

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

Experienced Nurse Leader Alison White Joins Gifford

Alison White

Alison White

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Responding to Community Needs

Vermont Blueprint for Health

Gifford’s Blueprint for Health Team has expanded to include additional mental health and addiction counselors offering one-on-one care at all Gifford primary care locations. In this file photo, from left, care coordinator Keith Marino, Health Connections (financial assistance) case worker Michele Packard and certified diabetes educator Jennifer Stratton discuss a patient at the Bethel Health Center.

In 2012 as part of the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, Gifford Medical Center completed a Community Needs Assessment.

Less than two years later, the Randolph-based medical center has already made huge strides addressing many of the needs found in that study.

In a survey of Town Meeting attendees in nine communities in 2012 plus feedback from other groups, community members’ described their priorities for a healthy community, perceived health problems and risky behaviors in the community, and their health needs or lacking services.

Among factors for a healthy community were good jobs and a healthy economy, access to health care, good schools, and healthy behaviors and lifestyles. Top health problems listed by survey respondents included addiction, obesity, and unhealthy lifestyle choices. Top health needs, or services community members have tried unsuccessfully to access, within the community were assisted living and nursing home care, alcohol and drug counseling, and dental care.

Today, Gifford is preparing to break ground in the spring on a senior living community in Randolph Center that will, over time, provide a full spectrum of housing options including the relocation of its award-winning nursing home and newly created assisted and independent living. Gifford has earned the coveted Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC) designation, making it one of only three hospitals in the country to be both a Critical Access Hospital and an FQHC. This means expanded access to care, including dental and mental health care. And the medical center’s Vermont Blueprint for Health Team has greatly expanded over the past year to include more mental health and addiction counselors, providing services at all Gifford primary care locations.

chronic illness support group

Among Gifford’s free community services is a chronic illness support group. Here Gifford pharmacist Jane McConnell provides medication advice to past participants.

“Each of these major initiatives, which have taken substantial work, targets an identified community health need. Meeting these needs and addressing the community’s feedback defines the future of Gifford and its expanding role,” says Ashley Lincoln, director of development and public relations at Gifford.

The Community Needs Assessment process is required every three years, but Gifford’s efforts are ongoing. The medical center continually provides community outreach initiatives to meet care needs, many of which are offered for free. These include classes, support groups, and health fairs. Additionally, many initiatives support local economic health, including a buy local approach.

The medical center also continues community outreach daily through a boots-on-the-ground approach that has Blueprint Community Health Team working directly with individuals and community organizations to address health and socioeconomic needs, particularly for the chronically ill.

“The Blueprint for Health is a statewide initiative. Gifford has placed extra focus on meeting community members’ needs so they can successfully manage their health,” says Blueprint Project Manager LaRae Francis. “This approach means not waiting months or years for needs to be determined, but matching resources and needs today to create an ongoing healthier community for all.”

A grant from through the Vermont Department of Health helped support the costs of the 2012 report. The full report is available on Gifford’s website in the “About Us” section under Community Reports.

Assessing Quality of Life: Live Your Dash

The DashIn between birth and death there is a dash. You know: the diminutive line on a tombstone or obituary indicating all those years of life between birth and death.

Linda Morse made “The Dash” famous in a poem by the name that challenges us to reflect on how we live our dash.

On Dec. 5, Gifford Medical Center picks up the discussion with “The Dash: Quality of Life Matters.”

The free discussion open to all is a continuation of last winter’s popular education series on death and dying and reopens a new series expected to last into the spring, explains organizer Cory Gould, a mental health practitioner and member of Gifford’s Advanced Illness Care Team.

The talk will include interviews with pre-selected participants on their quality of life. For example, Dr. Daniel Stadler, assistant professor of medicine and an internist with special interests in geriatrics and palliative care at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, will interview a woman in her 90s about her life experiences.

Other discussion points during the 5-6:30 p.m. event will focus on:

  • What do we mean by “quality of life?”
  • How do you measure it?
  • Is your quality of life different than someone else’s quality of life?
  • Does quality of life change over time?
  • How does one’s quality of life relate to the quality of one’s death?

“There’s a truism that’s been repeated over and over again and that is that people die as they lived,” says Gould. “We want to involve participants in a discussion of the question: ‘What gives life meaning for you?’”

Following this free talk, other talks are planned on advance directives; what dying looks like; a “death café” or open discussion about death; and a discussion on death with dignity versus assisted suicide.

Speakers will explore the concepts but there will be ample opportunity for group discussion and sharing.

Last year, the popular series included sessions on starting the conversation of end of life and preparing for death, such as through Advance Directives; what is a “good” death; and various aspects of grief.

Prior attendance at discussions is not required and all are welcome.

No registration is required for this free educational discussion. Gould can be reached at (802) 728-7713 to answer questions.

The talk will be held in the Gifford Conference Center. The Conference Center is on the first floor of the hospital and marked with a green awning from the patient parking area. For handicapped access, take the elevator from the main lobby to the first floor. For directions to the medical center and more, visit www.giffordmed.org.

Experienced Emergency Medicine Physician Joins Gifford

Dr.  A. Nicole Thran

RANDOLPH – Emergency medicine physician Dr. A. Nicole Thran has joined Gifford Medical Center full-time, providing care in the Randolph hospital’s 24-hour Emergency Department.

A native of New York City, Dr. Than attended Tufts University in Medford, Mass., earning her bachelor’s degree in biology. She went on to medical school at Vanderbilt University in Nashville. Her internship and residency in emergency medicine were at the University of Massachusetts in Worcester.

Dr. Thran has worked in emergency medicine since 1991 at hospitals in Connecticut, Virginia, Rhode Island, Oklahoma and, since 2012, in Vermont at Rutland Regional Medical Center and Brattleboro Memorial Hospital. There she was what is known as a locums tenens physician. Continue reading