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CEO Coronavirus Update – April 28, 2020

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As the COVID-19 curve continues to flatten in Vermont, with a total of 855 cases in the state and just 11 patients with COVID-19 currently hospitalized statewide, we are beginning the process of gradually and safely welcoming patients back onto our campus for medical visits. We are concerned that you and your loved ones may have been postponing necessary medical care for chronic and/or urgent conditions, either because you were afraid of contracting the disease, or because you felt guilty about imposing upon a medical staff that was preparing for a possible surge due to the pandemic.

Not only has our ER remained open 24/7, but our Grace Cottage Family Health Clinic and Outpatient Rehabilitation Services have been open as well, for important medical issues not requiring ER care. As of this week, our clinic and outpatient Rehab Department are expanding hours and visits.

Since early March, due to fear of catching the virus, far fewer patients have been going to ERs across the nation. Unfortunately, video images of COVID-19 patients being treated in NYC hospitals have created hysteria, frightening many patients who have serious acute medical problems into staying home. Patients throughout the nation who have had strokes, heart attacks, appendicitis, and other urgent conditions have delayed emergency care, leading to complications that could have been prevented and, in some cases, have even led to death as a result of their reluctance to seek appropriate care.

The truth is that physical distancing, mask usage, and other measures have successfully prevented the feared COVID-19 surge in most areas of the country, including Vermont. “Our emergency department is safe and open,” said Dr. Kimona Alin. “All patients and employees wear masks and other personal protective equipment. To protect patients and staff, we have an isolation area with special air-handling systems to care for patients with suspected COVID-19. If you’re having serious symptoms of any nature, or have had an accident that requires urgent medical attention, please don’t hesitate and don’t be afraid to come in.”

We continue to care for patients and have expanded our expertise in infection prevention, while increasing our infection prevention protocols and procedures. We are proud of the fact that no patient or employee has contracted COVID-19 while at Grace Cottage. We have conducted 188 tests since mid-March, 11 of them positive; none of these positive cases has been hospitalized at Grace Cottage.

As we continue to provide care to each and every patient in a way that is safe for both the patients and our staff, we have taken the following steps to responsibly reopen our clinic for more outpatient visits, including:

  • Timely COVID-19 testing of symptomatic patients and staff
  • Practicing good physical distancing and effective infection control programs:
    • All staff and patients are screened for COVID-related symptoms at the entrances of all buildings.
    • The appropriate protective equipment is worn to ensure staff and patient safety. All patients and companions must wear mouth and nose coverings when in public areas of our buildings, and this is provided if needed.
    • Waiting room chairs are spaced a minimum of six feet apart.
    • Patient companions are permitted only if required for direct patient assistance.
    • All public areas are sanitized frequently.
    • Alternative types of visits, including telemedicine, are available, when appropriate.

We fervently hope that a return to pre-coronavirus life is becoming closer to reality. While we gradually get back to a way of life that we remember not so long ago, let’s make sure that no one suffers from a lack of appropriate medical care and treatment. Please call Grace Cottage at 802-365-4331 to schedule an appointment if you have not been feeling well or want to check in with your provider regarding a chronic or developing condition. You should not worry about “bothering” us – we’re here to keep you as healthy as possible. If your body is telling you that something’s wrong and you ignore the fact that you don’t feel well, it can be a recipe for disaster. We have the ability and the time to care for you safely in our clinic, Rehab services, or ER, and our Messenger Valley Pharmacy is still providing curbside pickup and delivery.

“Everyone at Grace Cottage has been fantastic,” said Dr. Moss Linder, “including the leadership, nursing, housekeeping, dietary, and every other department. We’ve been doing an amazing job at going from the abnormal to making things as normal as they can be, under the circumstances. Everyone is very agreeable and friendly, and we’ve been keeping people safe. We couldn’t do it without the incredible support we’ve been getting from our community.”

I agree with Dr. Linder completely, and would like to express our deepest gratitude to our employees, who keep coming to work every day, and to our community members, who are reaching out to “embrace” us in so very many ways, financially and emotionally. I have also been amazed and impressed by the level of cooperation among Vermont’s 14 hospitals – this is something you don’t see in every state. We are a collegial, collaborative group, and we’re all so fortunate that we can count on each other to fill in when one or more of us needs additional equipment, supplies, or shared solutions to an issue.

In closing, I’d like to direct your attention to the best source I’ve found for dispelling the many COVID-19 rumors and misperceptions that are being widely shared – the World Health Organization’s myth-busters:
https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019/advice-for-public/myth-busters

Please continue to stay home and stay safe unless you need medical attention, in which case we’re here and we’re open for business, ready to welcome and treat you safely.

With great appreciation for your continuing support of Grace Cottage,

Doug DiVello, President & CEO

P.S. Our 11th Annual Spring into Health 5K, usually held on Mother’s Day weekend, has gone virtual this year, which means that you can get outside and run, walk, stroll or roll, anywhere, anytime, and support Grace Cottage at the same time, for just $15! Register here by May 5th, and we’ll mail you a bib so that you can take a photo as you complete your 5K; email it to us by May 11th, and we’ll post it to our Facebook page.