BENNINGTON — Noting a recent increase in patients who have had to be admitted for illnesses not related to COVID-19, Southwestern Vermont Medical Center on Friday urged that patients not delay care for chronic conditions out of fear of exposure to the coronavirus.
“The precautionary programs that we have initiated over the past several months make SVMC and its practices among the safest public places anywhere,” said Trey Dobson, MD, chief medical officer. “We want patients to know that it is safe to get their regular care.”
The hospital has instituted the following programs to help ensure the health system’s ability to provide care safely:
· The Virtual Waiting Room allows patients to call a single number upon arrival in the parking lot and receive a text message when their appointment is ready. This increases the distancing that can be achieved in waiting areas.
· Patient and visitor check-in stations stop patients and visitors to answer questions and have their temperature taken.
· Personal protective equipment is worn by all staff and patients. Diligent work by nursing leadership and others has ensured that the hospital has had an adequate supply of vital protective equipment throughout the pandemic.
· The COVID-19 Informational Hotline, 802-440-8844, is staffed with registered nurses 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays, provides help for anyone with COVID-related questions, including those who need a test but who do not have a primary care provider.
· The Respiratory Evaluation Center, which is now located within ExpressCare, is available for both patients who are having respiratory symptoms—including sore throat, cough, or shortness of breath—and patients with other symptoms. A negative-pressure waiting area, negative-pressure exam rooms, and detailed patient-care processes ensure safety for all patients. The REC and ExpressCare are open 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily, except for Thanksgiving and Christmas.
· Negative-pressure exam rooms have been installed within practices and are specially designed to accommodate patients with respiratory symptoms. The one-way airflow deposits airborne particles safely outside.
· Drive-up testing accommodates patients who need a COVID-19 test by appointment on SVMC’s campus in Bennington.
· Telemedicine remains a good option for many patients seeking treatment for specific conditions and for follow-up visits. Patients should consult with their primary or specialty care office for additional details.
Those experiencing any kind of medical emergency, including respiratory distress, should go to the Emergency Department, which is also equipped with negative-pressure rooms.
“Delaying care in an emergency can be deadly,” said Adam Cohen, MD, medical director and chair of the Department of Emergency at SVMC. “We urge people to come to the Emergency Department as soon as they suspect they might need emergency care. That’s when we are best able to help.”
Cases of COVID-19 are up significantly statewide. SVMC’s clinical leaders urge residents of southwestern Vermont and nearby communities in New York and Massachusetts to continue following the mitigation measures put forth by their state’s department of health. In Vermont, people are strongly advised against gatherings of any size with people outside their own household, unless they live alone, in which case they may associate with one household of family members. When people must leave home for an essential reason, to get groceries or seek medical care, they should wear a mask, stay 6 feet from others, and wash and sanitize their hands frequently.
“We are grateful to Bennington County and the surrounding towns for following the mitigation measures carefully,” said Dobson. “By doing so, you partner with our efforts to keep our communities safe. We don’t want to end up in a situation where hospital capacity is exceeded. We can prevent that, if we all work together.”