To the editor: Grace Cottage responds to Covid-19

Doug DiVello, Grace Cottage

I am writing to inform you about Grace Cottage Family Health & Hospital’s preparedness for and response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

We are 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.

According to the Vermont Department of Health, as of today Windham County has five residents who have tested positively. To date, Grace Cottage has tested 63 people for 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 here last week, was tested in our drive-up testing area and never entered our facility; the patient has been quarantined at home.

While we had many safeguards in place, we have also implemented the following changes. These measures are necessary to allow our caring, dedicated and talented staff to provide our usual essential medical care, as well as meeting the extraordinary demands of this pandemic:

  • 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 (lab and diagnostic imaging), and the main entrance of Grace Cottage Family Health. Each 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.
  • As of today, 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: 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday-Friday and 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday.

Frequently asked questions

Are you offering Covid-19 testing?

Yes, but you need to call us first, at 802-365-4331 to determine if you meet state of Vermont criteria for thetesting. If you have a fever, cough, body aches, shortness of breath, you may qualify for coronavirus screening, but you need to call first. 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 personal protective equipment 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.

What do I do if I 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.

What do I do if I need to see a medical provider about something else?

Call 802-365-4331 to determine the best course of action. If you and your provider determine that you need to come in, an appointment will be made. If it’s an urgent matter, our Emergency Department is fully staffed and fully capable of addressing a wide range of medical problems, ranging from heart attacks, strokes and pneumonia, to fractures and lacerations.

What can I do to help Grace Cottage?

We are receiving monetary donations through our website 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.

In addition, responding to the Centers for Disease Control’s recommendation that fabric masks are a crisis response option when other supplies have been exhausted, many people have been offering to sew masks. Recommended materials are 100 percent unused cotton fabric (with no metallic threads), 100 percent cotton or cotton flannel for the back, and ¼-inch or 3/8-inch flat elastic. Click here for video instructions or here for written instructions.

How can I help myself?

Don’t panic, even if you do develop a cough or fever. Remember that approximately 80 percent of coronavirus patients experience mild to moderate illness and do not require any hospitalization. Whether you’re feeling ill or not, stay home as much as possible, try to get some fresh air, and maintain 6-feet of space between you and anyone you come into contact with.

Refrain from touching your face with your hands, and make sure to wash your hands frequently and especially when you return home from being out in public. I can’t overstress the importance of relying on reputable websites for information: The Centers for Disease Control and the Vermont Department of Health.  By helping yourself and your loved ones, you will be helping everyone.

On behalf of all of us at Grace Cottage, thank you so much for your generous and overwhelming outpouring of support, which has been offered in so many different ways; it has truly been humbling for me and for everyone here. We will get through this, by working together.

Doug DiVello
President & CEO
Grace Cottage Family Health & Hospital

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