New physicians offer patients more options

MIDDLEBURY — Porter Medical Center has restocked its ranks with more than a dozen new primary caregivers to ensure that Addison County patients will once again be able to have their health care needs taken care of locally.
The new caregivers, ranging from advanced nurse practitioners to family practice physicians, are filling the ranks of former Porter workers who recently left the area due to retirement, to take jobs in other parts of the country, or to trail their spouses in their career moves. Those departures — coupled with the organization’s ongoing, Herculean effort to convert to an electronic medical records system — created a situation where none of Porter’s greater Addison County medical practices could receive new patients.
Porter-affiliated practices in Middlebury, Vergennes, Bristol and Brandon are now open to new patients, as a result of the following hires:
•  Drs. Michael Csaszar and Deborah Huber, as well as Advanced Practice Medical Nurse Robin Frantz at Addison Family Practice.
•  Dr. Anna Benvenuto at Addison Associates in OB/GYN.
•  Drs. Emily Glick and Lynn Wilkinson at Bristol Internal Medicine.
•  Drs. Dan Huber, Jennifer Kaufman and Karen Fromhold, as well as Advanced Practice Medical Nurse Christin Bland at Little City Family Practice.
•  Dr. Laura Panto at Middlebury Pediatrics.
•  Advanced Practice Medical Nurse Maria Cabri at Neshobe Family Medicine.
•  Certified Nurse Midwife Eve Hadley at Tapestry Midwifery.
Most of the new providers have arrived since last August, according to Jean Cotner, vice president of Porter Practice Management.
“We are trying to encourage people to call and schedule appointments with these folks, and it is really a 180 from a year ago,” Porter spokesman Ron Hallman said. “Now, all the practices are open (to new patients).”
And many of those new (and current) patients will soon have the ability to schedule evening appointments with their primary care providers. Porter officials continue to work out the exact details of how that will work.
It wasn’t long ago that new patients had to go outside of the county to see a primary care physician. Demand was particularly acute in Middlebury and Vergennes, according to Hallman and Cotner.
“We feel like we’ve made significant progress toward re-establishing access in general to primary care in Addison County and Brandon,” Hallman said. “If you can’t provide access to primary care, it’s bad for the patients, it’s bad for the community and can have negative impact on the hospital itself.”
Hallman and Cotner explained that Porter’s practices couldn’t shut down while implementing and learning the new electronic medical records system and related software. That learning has had to take place while serving patients, thereby limiting the number of clients that could be served.
Six of Porter’s 11 practices have completed the transition to electronic records, which encompass patients’ charts, lab tests, x-rays and all other data for convenient storage and quick transmittal to other medical offices that serve the patients. The remaining five will be put through the rigors beginning this fall, with full implementation expected in August of 2014.
“It’s a long learning curve,” Cotner said. “Our practices that went live at the end of May last year, I believe, finally feel like they’ve gotten beyond the learning curve. It is a huge learning process.”
At the same time, Porter has been making sure to equip its primary care practices with other services envisioned by Vermont’s Blueprint for Health, which emphasizes preventative care.
“(Porter) had also been working concurrently on making sure each of the practices has access, or will have access, to community health team members under the Blueprint for Health,” Hallman said. The community health team provides ancillary services — such as dietary counseling and behavioral health — to help patients develop better habits to stay healthy.
“The fact that we have been able to attract this many primary care providers … is a testament to how much this area has to offer people in terms of a place to live and employment for their spouses,” Cotner said. “The (national) primary care shortage is continuing to ramp up. We can say that except for a few areas where we are still recruiting, we’ve got a full roster. It’s a wonderful thing for the community … We’re lucky.”
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected].

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