Time to Get the Care You Postponed

A reporter recently asked me if I was proud of Vermont’s hospitals and their planning and preparation during the COVID-19 pandemic. My answer was an unequivocal “yes.” I am also proud of Vermonters, who have stepped up to help one another and the health care system by following guidance and staying at home. These steps assisted in avoiding a surge that could have overwhelmed our hospitals.

Together, it appears, we have passed through at least the first wave of infection. Hospitals and other health care providers can begin to return to a sense of normal and offer the services they put on hold in case all of their resources would be necessary to care for COVID-19 patients. It is important for people to get the care they need as soon as possible, and providers are ready to schedule procedures and other postponed visits.

There will be some important differences when you next enter your local hospital or provider’s office. Vermont health care facilities will all follow a new normal to protect staff and patients:

  • Your providers will use personal protection equipment (PPE) to ensure their safety and yours. They may wear surgical or other equivalent masks and eye-protection goggles.
  • Only people requiring direct assistance should bring someone with them to a facility. Only those health care workers essential to performing a procedure will be in patient care areas. This will reduce the amount of PPE needed to protect patients and staff.
  • You and any essential visitors will be screened for COVID-19-related symptoms—such as fever or cough—prior to your care. All health care workers will also be screened before entering the facility.
  • You must wear mouth and nose coverings when in public areas at health care facilities. You may bring your own cloth mask or your health care provider may provide one.
  • Waiting room chairs will be spaced at least six feet apart to allow for social distancing. You will have liberal access to hand sanitizer at the facility.
  • While health care institutions have always taken cleaning and sanitizing seriously, they now follow even more stringent procedures for disinfecting all common areas.
  • Providers will also continue to consider alternative care delivery models, including telemedicine. Remote care methods are likely to become part of the new normal even after COVID-19 is behind us. Many Vermonters have found this type of care convenient and effective.

Our hospitals and health systems will reevaluate policies and procedures frequently based on emerging data and changing circumstances. I am proud of the nimbleness of our system, its thousands of employees and all those working together to keep Vermont healthy and strong at such a challenging time.