RANDOLPH – Gifford Medical Center held its 106th Annual Corporators Meeting on Saturday evening at the Randolph hospital, electing three new members to the Board of Trustees, sharing the successes of 2011, and welcoming Steve Kimbell, Vermont Department of Banking, Insurance, Securities and Health Care Administration commissioner, as the guest speaker.
Newly elected to the board were Leo Connolly, Fred Newhall, and Peter Nowlan following the retirements of long-time board members Barbara Harvey and Bruce MacDonald and the heavily-felt death of Dick Mallary. “We miss him terribly,” board member Bob Wright said.
MacDonald and Harvey offered a few parting words of thanks and encouragement.
MacDonald admitted to feeling reluctant when he was first asked to join the board in 2002. A decade later, his opinion had changed. “As a corporator I would encourage you to support the dedicated staff and management here,” he told the audience of about 90.
Harvey, a member of the board since 2004, thanked the hospital for its quick response to get medications into isolated communities in the days following Tropical Storm Irene, especially in her town of Rochester.
Also recognized was Wright, who ended his two years as board chairman. Elected to his role was Sharon Dimmick. Gus Meyer was named vice chairman, Paul Kendall was chosen as secretary and Lincoln Clark was named treasurer.
Before stepping down, Wright delivered his final chairman’s report, recognizing his fellow board members and the hospital as a strong community asset that meets quality standards, changing regulations and community members’ expectations.
The hospital also “made budget” for a 12th consecutive year and is moving forward positively due to the medical center’s strategic planning efforts and commitment to service excellence through a program the hospital calls BEST.
The hospital is in its fourth three-year strategic plan. The plan guides the medical center in its efforts to remain vital and meet patient needs. “We’ve tried very hard over the years to make sure we’re doing a good job and you’re choosing us,” Administrator Joseph Woodin said, touching on the medical center’s commitment to reviewing quality indicators at each board meeting, a slate of new providers who joined the hospital in 2011, technology improvements, and some unexpected awards the hospital received.
Those awards include a recognition for Gifford as a Top 100 Critical Access Hospital in the nation, a listing by U.S. News and World Report last month naming the hospital’s Menig Extended Care Facility as one of the nation’s top 39 nursing homes, and a national “best practice” award for Gifford’s midwives.
Woodin also praised volunteers’ efforts and briefly reviewed plans for a senior living community on 25.6 “Hillside” acres Gifford owns in Randolph Center.
The immediate goal, said Woodin, is to reconstruct the 30-bed Menig Extended Care Facility on the property and create industry-standard private patient rooms in the vacated space once Menig has moved out. The next phase would include 40 independent living units. The long-range plan includes assisted living units and opportunities to build more independent living. The hospital is currently going through the permitting process and hopes to break ground on the new nursing home before next winter.
Woodin called 2011 financially difficult. Employees went without wage increases and some cut back on hours. “Last year was a very tough year,” he said. But, “compared to other hospitals, we do quite well. We’re very stable and it does allow us to make these necessary investments.”
Vermont Blueprint for Health
A main focus for 2011, and consequently the focus of the hospital’s newly released 2011 Annual Report, was Gifford’s role as a medical home. All five of Gifford’s primary care practices were recognized as Patient-Centered Medical Homes by the National Committee for Quality Assurance.
The designation is part of Vermont Blueprint for Health efforts to improve care for the chronically ill through advanced primary care. Gifford is working diligently on Blueprint goals, including bringing together a diverse Community Health Team and employing an outpatient care coordinator whose job is to help patients with socioeconomic needs and connect them to community resources.
“We’re offering them an opportunity for better health,” Vice President of Medicine Teresa Voci said of patients who are now receiving help navigating various systems and reducing barriers to care.
The results, said Voci, are healthier patients who are better able to manage their chronic conditions and reduced health care costs.
Kimbell spoke on health care reform, explaining the various state boards and agencies involved in the ambitious effort to create a single-payer health care system in Vermont and a federally-required health benefits exchange.
According to Kimbell, some think the task the state has undertaken under Act 48 is “crazy,” but the law is necessary to try to rein in health care spending to better match annual inflation rate increases.
And the state has had past success on payment reform, Kimbell noted, holding up the Vermont Blueprint for Health and the Catamount health plan as examples of the state’s record of successful reform.
“A lot of groundwork has been done to set the stage for health care reform,” said Kimbell, calling Catamount “up and running,” “successful” and “a model of where we’re trying to go.”
But, he acknowledged, if citizens don’t change their health habits, reform efforts will fail.
Audience members asked questions about dental access and incentives for preventative care. MacDonald questioned how savings could be found. “It’s hard to visualize for us in this organization … how you can recover that much cost just knowing on a monthly and annual basis how hard it is to run this organization,” the former Gifford board member and accountant by trade said.
A lot of economy will be found in Vermont hospitals functioning as a system, but also still keeping their community identity, Kimball said.
He also spoke of provider retention. “What’s the impact on the provider community?” he asked. “How they get paid is going to be something we’ll be sticking our fingers in very deeply. I believe there is plenty of money in the system that everyone can settle somewhere.”
Hospitals will not close under the plan, Kimbell ensured, which broadly speaking will pay hospitals and providers to keep people healthy rather than per visit or procedure.
Two awards were also given out Saturday evening. The $1,000 Philip D. Levesque Memorial Community Award was awarded to the Quin-Town Center for Senior Citizens.
Formed in 1972, the Quin-Town Center provides meals, including Meals on Wheels; educational programming; and socialization opportunities for seniors in Rochester, Hancock, Granville, Pittsfield and Stockbridge. In 2011, the center provided 5,950 meals to 350 seniors in these communities. The grant will help pay for a commercial refrigerator, replacing smaller models from the 1980s.
Receiving the $1,000 Dr. Richard J. Barrett Health Professions Scholarship was Sarah Davis of Northfield. A member of Gifford’s inpatient team, Davis is a full-time licensed practical nurse, a mother of three and a full-time student at Norwich University, where she is seeking a bachelor’s degree to become a registered nurse.
Davis has been working in health care since the age of 12, when she when she became a junior volunteer at a nursing home. By age 14, she was a personal aide at Level III home for the elderly and at age 16, she completed her licensed nursing assistant course. She’s worked at Gifford as an LPN since 2007.
She is also the first member of her family to go to college.