TOWNSHEND, Vt. – Grace Cottage Family Health and Hospital is working hard and diligently to stop the spread of COVID-19, while continuing to provide high-quality medical care and to protect the safety of our community, including patients, their families, and our employees.
As of March 24, we have tested 63 people for possible COVID-19, and only one test has come back positive. This patient, who had been in a “hot zone” out of state prior to testing last week, was tested in our drive-up testing area and never entered our facility; the patient has been quarantined at home.
We have implemented the following changes. We are requesting that our providers assess all well visits and non-urgent appointments and to determine how best to care for these patients. We have developed a system for patients who would like to use their computers or smart phones to have video-based meetings with their medical provider, rather than a face-to-face meeting. Medical issues and medication adjustments that are appropriate for discussion with medical providers over the phone will be handled in this way.
We have divided Grace Cottage Family Health clinic into two sections. One section is isolated from all other patients and has an airflow system that prevents recirculation of air to the rest of the building. This is where we are directing patients with respiratory illnesses or symptoms. Patients without respiratory illnesses, whom providers want to see face-to-face, are seen in another separate section of the clinic.
Grace Cottage Hospital has negative-pressure rooms that can be used to treat patients who require hospital inpatient care. These rooms allow isolation of COVID-19 patients from the rest of the hospital. Should a COVID-19 patient develop severe illness requiring critical care, we have relationships with regional hospitals to allow transfer to their Intensive Care Units.
Visitors will not be permitted to see hospital patients until further notice. Exceptions may be made for immediate family of patients in end-of-life care, but these exceptions must be approved in advance of a visit. All families of patients currently in the hospital have been notified of this change in policy.
The hospital cafeteria has been closed to visitors until further notice.
We have reduced the number of public entrances to our facility to three: the Emergency Department, Outpatient Services, and the main entrance of Grace Cottage Family Health. Each of these entrances has a respiratory screening check-in station. Patients with symptoms will be given a mask immediately, and staff will take appropriate actions to ensure the safety for all patients, visitors, and staff.
We continue to suspend our volunteer program, all non-essential meetings, and all meetings held on our premises by outside groups. We continue to educate and train our employees about screening, testing, and treating COVID-19.
Our Messenger Valley Pharmacy will provide curbside service at the store, delivery service to surrounding towns, and mail service for prescription and over-the-counter needs. There will be no customer foot traffic in the store until further notice. Hours of operation remain the same: Monday through Friday, from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Saturday, from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Grace Cottage is offering COVID-19 testing, but please call us first at 802-365-4331 to determine if you meet state of Vermont criteria. If you do qualify, your sample will probably be taken as you remain in your car outside the Grace Cottage Family Health clinic and a nurse wearing PPE will come outside to take a swab. You will need to remain in self-isolation until the results are known, which could take a few days.
If you feel sick, stay home unless you’ve been in touch with your medical provider and he or she has asked you to come in. Do not go to work or any public areas. Grace Cottage providers are here to help assess you and help you receive care in the safest and most efficient way possible.
Our Emergency Department is fully staffed and capable of addressing a wide range of medical problems, ranging from heart attacks, strokes, and pneumonia, to fractures and lacerations.
We have been receiving monetary donations via www.gracecottage.org and this support is very greatly appreciated, as our expenses to provide care and to be prepared on the front lines of this fight against COVID-19 exceed our revenues. Thank you for your generosity during this extremely challenging time.
Written by Doug DiVello, president and CEO, Grace Cottage Family Health & Hospital