CEO Message to the Community – November 2023

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I am very happy to let you know that late this past Friday afternoon, November 17th, we were notified by the Green Mountain Care Board that they have issued a Certificate of Need to Grace Cottage Family Health & Hospital for the construction of a new primary care practice building.

This is very exciting news! As you probably know that, while charming, the current Grace Cottage Family Health buildings are small and antiquated – we are bursting at the seams.

The completed Certificate of Need application and the Green Mountain Care Board’s Statement of Decision are public documents which can be accessed by clicking on this link.

Our next step will be to submit an application to the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources/Natural Resources Board for an Act 250 permit. Act 250 process requires compliance in ten areas of potential environmental impact.

Concurrently, we will be working to raise the funds needed for this $20M project that will be transformational for Grace Cottage Family Health & Hospital and the patients and community that we serve.

Giving Tuesday 2023

Giving Tuesday 2023

After Black Friday and Cyber Monday comes Giving Tuesday, a worldwide day of philanthropy during the season of gratitude.

On Tuesday, November 28th, Grace Cottage Family Health & Hospital is asking our friends and neighbors to help us achieve our goal of building a new primary care clinic by making a Giving Tuesday donation.

Giving Tuesday donations may be made anytime this month online via credit card by clicking this link. Alternately, checks made out to Grace Cottage with “Giving Tuesday” on the memo line, can be sent to PO Box 1, Townshend, VT, 05353

Thank you for your generosity!


The following letter was sent to the editors of The Brattleboro Reformer and The Commons newspapers in early November. We couldn’t have said it better and want to thank Deb Luskin, whose heartfelt words really resonated with our community:

Grace Cottage Family Health needs more space to meet demand
By Deborah Lee Luskin, Nov 7, 2023

The Green Mountain Care Board is conducting Community Conversations about “Vermont’s healthcare system to support hospital transformation.” I recently participated in the one scheduled for Grace Cottage Family Health and Hospital in Townshend. For two hours, residents of rural Windham County testified to the extraordinary way medical services are delivered at Grace Cottage. It was a remarkable expression of gratitude and pride for an institution that delivers essential healthcare services to the rural community it serves. And for good reason.

People can access a lot of primary care in Townshend, including pediatrics, adult medicine, gerontology, hospice, mental health, and substance abuse treatment. Wrap-around services include laboratory, imaging, occupational and physical therapy, emergency care, in-patient care, social services, and end-of-life hospice care. There’s a pharmacy where patients can pick up prescriptions without adding an extra 40 miles to fetch medicine at the cost of an hour’s time and two gallons of gas. For many in our rural hill towns, transportation is a barrier to accessing health care.

I live in Newfane and have been going to Grace Cottage for primary care since 1984. I gave birth in the old hospital, brought my kids for casts, stitches, and wellness care, and I sat vigil for my father in the Hospice Suite, where he was able to die as he wished, with no heroic measures. Grace Cottage provides family medicine from cradle to grave.

For 16 years, I managed a private family practice in Townshend and learned first-hand how when primary care is accessible, welcoming and within the community it serves, it’s a bargain compared to the cost of after-the-fact intervention, not just financially, but also in quality of life. Healthcare is a service; it’s financing healthcare that’s become an industry. By concentrating on delivering excellent primary care that attracts patients, practitioners and staff, Grace Cottage has outgrown its clinical space…

The hospital building and Emergency Department have been recently expanded to meet this increasing demand, but the clinics are in two 19th-century buildings that have been renovated so often that all that remains of the original structures are their uneven floors. When practitioners need to have one of medicine’s difficult family conversations regarding a serious diagnosis with patients and family, they all cram into a small exam room others are waiting to use. The clinic needs more exam rooms, and a conference room as well.

Grace Cottage has 13 primary care providers — family physicians, nurse practitioners and physicians’ assistants — who are shoehorned three to an office, where they dictate, make phone calls, do research, and concentrate all within earshot of one another and with a complete lack of privacy. One nurse practitioner does have her own office. The room has no window; in any other building, this would be called a closet.

Nevertheless — and despite a national shortage of family physicians — family doctors and advanced practitioners want to work at Grace Cottage Family Health, and patient demand continues to increase, but there is no space to accommodate them. The current clinic is inadequate and worn out…

While Grace Cottage is small by today’s healthcare standards, its size and independence allow it to be nimble and resilient, as evidenced by its response to the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s a highly successful model for delivering healthcare in a rural area. And unlike some larger hospitals in Vermont, Grace Cottage is solvent.

At Friday’s Community Conversation about Healthcare Sustainability, the consultant facilitating the meeting assured us this meeting was part of a long-range data-collection process. All well and good, but Grace Cottage Family Health needs a new building now.

Deborah Lee Luskin is a writer, speaker, and educator.


Dr. Timothy Shafer  - 2023 Distinguished Service AwardAs reported in last month’s Message to the Community, Dr. Timothy Shafer has been honored with the 2023 Distinguished Service Award from the Board of the Vermont Academy of Family Physicians. He was presented with the award by Dr. Ryan Sexton in Stowe, VT in early November.

This is such a well-deserved award and, on behalf of your peers, co-workers, and patients, Congratulations, Dr. Shafer!

Wishing you and yours a Happy Thanksgiving,

Doug DiVello, President & CEO