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Community Health Providers to Staff Alternate Care Site

Rutland Health Care Partners Ready to Activate Spartan Arena

As the coronavirus pandemic threatens to reach an apex in Vermont in the next week or so, plans to provide health services for those who are not infected with the virus have been a main focus for Community Health. The primary care clinical staff at Community Health is being trained to handle the 24 hour-a-day operation that could accommodate 100-150 patients at the alternate care site (ACS) constructed in Castleton University’s Spartan Arena.

Rutland Regional Medical Center (RRMC) coordinated and organized the ACS while Community Health will provide clinical staff and supervision for the alternate care site. There is constant communication between RRMC and Community Health as the situation unfolds and as RRMC staff focuses on caring for COVID-19 infected and hospitalized patients. The collaborative plan is an effort between state and local agencies.

“There are few other providers that they could turn to and Community Health was more than happy to lend our services,” said Community Health CEO Don Reuther. “Our providers are stepping up in the event that we need this. First of all, it is what is right for the community and second of all we are the only ones in the position to do that.”

Dr. Bradley Berryhill, Community Health’s medical director and associate medical director of the ACS said “the ACS will be activated when we hit a local surge level.” Once the surge level is reached, Community Health will continue to treat patients at its Express Care locations in Rutland and Castleton. The other practices in the Community Health network would be transitioned to telemedicine.

“Express Care is going to be vitally important because if there is a surge there will need to be a lot of triaging of patients,” Reuther said. “So instead of  overwhelming the emergency departments, our Express Care will provide the triaging services for the community to direct them to the proper venue.”

The sports arena was converted into an alternate care site for non-Covid-19 patients who are in need of care and would normally be admitted to a hospital or other facility for recovery or rehabilitation. Once the hospitals in the region become overburdened, the ACS will be activated.

“Level 3 is the level of care we’d be providing people who are not acutely ill,” said Community Health’s Clinical Director Claudia Courcelle, RN, BSN, MSA. Courcelle, who is the nursing supervisor of the ACS, said the site is designed for patients that are potentially discharged from a hospital but not quite ready to go home or they need to be admitted to the hospital or a nursing home and there was no bed availability. Courcelle said the arena is arranged in pods of 20 patients, 5 initial pods. Each additional pod will be staffed as the previous pod reaches capacity. Patients will be negative COVID-19/coronavirus and will need to be recommended by a provider before being admitted to the ACS. If a surge occurs, the ACS could potentially serve hospitals across the state.

As Community Health responds to the ongoing health crisis and prepares for the potential surge, primary care resources will continue to be efficiently dispensed at Community Health. Courcelle said primary care as we know it will change and clinical staff will continue to work remotely and in needed situations such as the ACS.

“Right now it looks like the measures the state has put in place for self-isolation, social distancing measures are having a very positive effect,” said Reuther. “Hopefully we won’t get to the point where we need those facilities but they will be there if we do.”

Community Health is Vermont’s largest FQHC (Federally Qualified Health Center), a network of primary care, pediatric, behavioral health and dental services with offices in Rutland, Brandon, Castleton, West Pawlet and Shoreham. Community Dental offices are located in Rutland and Shoreham, Community Health Pediatrics is in Rutland and Behavioral Health services are available at all of our locations. Community Health Express Care centers, open 7 days a week, are located at the Rutland and Castleton Community Health Centers.

The mission of Community Health (Community Health Centers of the Rutland Region) is to improve the health and wellness of all people in the communities we serve by providing access to excellent medical and dental primary care regardless of any financial consideration.

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