CEO Message to the Community – October 2022

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Grace Cottage Autumn Photo

Grace Cottage has plenty of flu shots and COVID-19 boosters (the bivalent vaccine) available. The CDC recommends that you get both shots done at the same time, and many of our patients are doing this to save time and travel. Grace Cottage is hosting a flu vaccination clinic on Saturday, November 5th. Call 802-365-4331 to set up an appointment for the flu vaccine clinic, or another day for both shots.

Here we are, still talking about the COVID-19 virus almost three years after it was first identified and we’re all tired of it, but the unfortunate truth is that the virus is still with us. It’s hard to know how prevalent it is, since many people are taking at-home tests, the results of which are often not reported. However, multiple wastewater treatment facilities in Vermont have recently reported high and rising concentrations of the coronavirus. Our patients, friends, co-workers, and neighbors are still coming down with COVID-19, either for the first time or, unfortunately, for the second or even third time, with different variants.

Seven counties in Vermont, including Windham County, still have high community transmission rates, and many of our patients are older; some are immune-compromised. Therefore, like many Vermont hospitals, we are choosing, for now, to maintain our mask mandate for patients, visitors, and staff in patient care areas. Masks are an inconvenience and all of us wish that we could be done with them, but we also want to do everything possible to keep our community healthy, and that includes reducing the chance of transmission of any virus, whether it be a cold, the flu, or COVID-19.

As we head into winter, there are some simple measures you can take to improve your health and build up your resistance to colds, flu, and COVID-19. These are tips that your primary care provider gives you every time you have a physical, so none of this is new information, but it does warrant repeating because, to borrow a phrase, “YOU are the boss of you” when it comes to your health:

  • Get seven to eight hours of sleep a night if you can. It helps to sleep in a dark, cool, quiet room, far from electronic devices of any kind. Don’t watch the clock; that only increases stress which decreases the probability of sleep. Minimize your consumption of alcohol, which is a well-known sleep interrupter. If all else fails, count sheep (or list the U.S. states alphabetically in your mind, A-W. By the time you get to G, you may well have gotten so bored that you fall asleep!).
  • Eat well, including a wide variety of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Avoid fatty, greasy, salty, and highly-processed foods, and drink plenty of water.
  • Try to get some exercise every day, even if it’s just for 10-20 minutes to start. As you make exercising a habit, you will begin to enjoy and look forward to it! A brisk 15-minute walk outdoors (or indoors if it’s icy) can do wonders for your physical and emotional health.

New Providers

We have welcomed Adult Nurse Practitioner Caroline (Carly) Dormer and Dr. Wyll Everett to Grace Cottage Family Health, and they are both accepting new patients. Dr. Marc-Olivier Ratte will begin next week, and then we’ll have three new providers in the clinic. Jeremy Morrison will transition his practice here at Grace Cottage to focus on some specialty care areas, including substance-use disorders. Dr. Ronald Vallario will be retiring at the end of the year after a long and distinguished practice in Massachusetts and Vermont, and we wish him well (his stunning photographs are currently on display at the Southern Vermont Arts Center in Manchester, so we have an idea of what he’ll be doing more of in retirement).

Emergency Department Expansion

We’re getting closer to breaking ground on our 17’x42’ Emergency Department addition. During construction, which we hope to begin next month, our Emergency Department will remain in full operation. The temporary entrance, which will be located in the glassed-in Nessel Pavilion on the south side of the hospital, will be very well marked, and open 24/7. Patient visits to our Emergency Deparment went from 2,730 visits in 2021 to 3,477 visits in 2022 — an increase of more than 27%, so the need for this expansion is clearly evident.

We are grateful to so many community members whose generosity has made this project to expand and enhance the Emergency Department possible.

Grace Cottage Autumn PhotoWe’ve enjoyed a glorious and long-lasting foliage season here in Vermont this year, for which we are very grateful! I hope you’ve been able to get out to do some leaf-peeping. In some areas of our state, it’s not too late to see vibrant yellows, oranges…and reds! One of our employees captured this fall foliage photo at Grace Cottage on Friday.

Doug DiVello, President & CEO
Grace Cottage Family Health & Hospital