For many of us, this was the first Passover or Easter we have spent without gatherings of family members and friends, and it felt very strange and disconcerting. However, there have been many silver linings during this unprecedented time, as we all find a variety of ways to connect with our loved ones.
Here at Grace Cottage, we’ve been overwhelmed and gratified by the outpouring of community support, which has been extended to us in countless ways, including letters and e-mails of encouragement, donations of personal protective equipment, and an amazing number of generous financial contributions from individuals and organizations from far and wide.
In addition, our employees have been so humbled and touched by the outreach that has come in other ways, including (but not limited to, because there are so many and we are appreciative of all of them):
- Darn Tough Vermont Socks, of Northfield, VT, is donating a pair of new 100% merino wool socks for every Grace Cottage employee
- Dunkin sent two $5 gift cards for every Grace Cottage employee, and bags and K-cups of Dunkin coffee for use in the hospital
- Gordini, a ski accessory company in Williston, VT has donated goggles and N95 masks
- Mary Meyer Stuffed Toys imported surgical and N95 masks
- One of our supporters in Marlboro, VT has purchased and donated 200 N95 masks
- More than 50 community members have hand-sewn and delivered facemasks, headbands, and gowns to Grace Cottage, and more than 30 supporters have mailed or dropped off ski goggles, and N95 and surgical masks that they had in their homes
- MKT: Grafton is donating 20 take-out dinners per week to Grace Cottage employees
- WW Building Supply has donated over 150 face shields, made by their employees
- Anonymous well-wishers put up this homemade sign outside the hospital this past weekend, and the Easter Bunny sent two helpers to deliver a giant basket:
On behalf of our nurses, housekeepers, dietary employees, medical providers, and the rest of our dedicated staff, thank you for the sacrifices you are making by staying home. Clearly, the Grace Cottage community has embraced the slogan: “We are here for you. Please stay home for us”, and Governor Phil Scott has extended the Stay Home, Stay Safe order to May 15th. Data from the Vermont Department of Health has shown that everyone’s social distancing has helped flatten the COVID-19 pandemic curve here in our state. As of today, there are 748 cases of coronavirus in Vermont, with 55 of them in Windham County. We have conducted 105 tests here since March, with 7 positive results.
At Grace Cottage Hospital, we continue to provide essential hospital and outpatient care. Our Clinic, Messenger Valley Pharmacy, Physical and Occupational Rehab Services, Emergency Department, and Hospital are open, fully-staffed, and caring for patients around the clock. We have instituted many measures to assure that every visit here is as safe as possible during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Like most hospitals in Vermont, visits to Grace Cottage’s Emergency Department are down significantly. While this is in part due to fewer work and athletic injuries as people are successfully social distancing, we are concerned that some patients, nervous about being exposed to COVID-19, are forgoing essential care, sometimes causing their illnesses and chronic conditions to worsen. Please be assured, we continue to be a safe place for you to get care: all employees wear appropriate personal protective equipment, and patients are screened upon arrival, with those at highest risk for COVID-19 immediately placed in isolation, away from the main Emergency Department.
We continue to admit patients for acute care and for rehabilitative services. Our Clinic remains open for patients who need to see their medical providers for necessary care. Patients with flu and cold-type respiratory symptoms are seen in a separate isolation unit with a negative-pressure air handling system, as we take many precautionary measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Updates on activities at Grace Cottage:
- COVID-19 Patients – Thus far, we have not admitted any patients with COVID-19 here. The only acutely ill patient we have seen with the disease needed to be in an Intensive Care Unit and was promptly and appropriately transferred to another hospital. All Emergency Department patients whom we suspect may have COVID-19 are seen in an isolation unit. All patients who are admitted to the hospital (even those without any COVID-19 symptoms) are tested for the coronavirus and observed in isolation rooms, and moved to the general inpatient area only if they test negative for COVID-19. If we do need to admit COVID-19 positive patients here, they will be kept in isolation units with negative-pressure air handling system for the duration of their infectious stage.
- Telehealth – Many of our medical providers and physical and occupational therapists are using telemedicine for clinical visits. This permits medical consultations to take place while patients remain in their homes.
- Immunizations for Children: It is important for a child’s health that immunization schedules are followed so that additional vaccinations are not required. We are ready and able to administer vaccines to your child in a safe environment.
- Testing – The state of Vermont has changed laboratory testing requirements, now permitting us to test patients with even mild symptoms. We are scheduling appointments (after a phone consultation with a provider) for drive-up testing Monday through Friday. Call 802-365-4331 for more information.
- Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) – The national shortage of PPE is in the news daily. Assuring protection of patients and staff is a top priority for Grace Cottage. We have worked hard to procure our supply of N95 and surgical masks, gowns, gloves, face shields, and other protective equipment. Our greatest need at the moment is for gowns; we hope to be able to supply appropriate fabric to some of our area sewers, and a pattern is available at www.gracecottage.org
- Our Staff: I continue to be completely committed to our employees and, for the foreseeable future, there will be no furloughs, or layoffs at Grace Cottage. We are a “family” and our employees have those who depend on them during these uncertain times. Some employees have opted to retire early or take a leave of absence until the virus has passed. Others are job-sharing, and vacant positions are being filled from within, when possible.
- Information – You can find links to the latest COVID-19 information, see Grace Cottage updates, and/or make a donation to Grace Cottage’s COVID-19 Fund at www.gracecottage.org
I am grateful to be a part of this community and for the exceptional team of healthcare professionals at Grace Cottage. It’s been amazing, to me, to see how well our employees communicate with patients and with one another with their eyes. A smiling face is a smiling face, even under a mask!
President & CEO
Grace Cottage Family Health & Hospital