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Porter Hospital opens center to offer intravenous meds locally

MIDDLEBURY — Vergennes resident David Larrow underwent successful spinal surgery on Dec. 29, but was suddenly confronted with a new, unexpected challenge during his post-operative recovery: An aggressive bone infection. His physician told him to prepare for daily, intravenous doses of antibiotic that could not be administered in his home.
Suddenly, he and his wife, Sheila, were staring at 47 consecutive days of round-trips from the Little City to an infusion clinic in Burlington. And they were told that the clinic had few daytime vacancies, meaning they would have to hope for a some nighttime slots.
Fortunately for the Larrows and scores of other Addison County residents, Porter Medical Center has now opened its own infusion center, which will shave many miles in travel time for area patients who otherwise would seek such services in the medical hubs of Burlington and Rutland. Located in the Collins Building, the new center is now offering a variety of outpatient infusion therapies designed to treat conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn’s disease, immune deficiencies, infectious diseases, anemia and asthma.
Porter Hospital officials said the new center will eventually be equipped to dispense chemotherapy to patients who still have to receive such treatment outside of the county.
“This has been a Godsend for us,” Shelia Larrow said of the Porter Infusion Center, which will now limit the couple’s travel to a 30-mile round trip.
“It’s comforting.”
Ron Hallman, Porter vice president for development and public relations, said the hospital has been offering some infusion therapy within the hospital, but not in as comfortable and consistent fashion as in the new center.
“One of the biggest changes with this is the convenience,” Hallman said.
Infusion intravenous therapy involves medication administered through a needle or a catheter. This kind of therapy is prescribed when a patient’s condition cannot be treated effectively by oral medication, according to Porter Medical Center Chief Medical Officer Dr. Carrie Wulfman.
“If you need to receive medications via infusion as part of your treatment plan, our clinical team will work with your physician to provide convenient access to care, as well as support your family in what we anticipate being a comfortable and relaxing facility,” she said.
Registered Nurse Justine Neary is supervisor of Porter’s infusion center. She and three other trained RNs are staffing the center, ensuring patients are set up with the proper treatment as well as some basic creature comforts — such as television, reading material, free WiFi and games  —  to help them pass the time. A maximum of six patients at a time can receive treatment simultaneously in big comfy chairs. There’s also enough room for patients to chat with family and friends.
“We are working hard to take excellent care of our patients,” said Neary, noting the center began receiving patients last Nov. 30 and had served more than 100 as of Monday, when the center was formally inaugurated.
Infusion centers, Neary explained, allow patients the flexibility to receive IV medications on an out-patient basis, thereby avoiding longer stays in the hospital. This in turn reduces health care costs.
“There is a big push, nationwide, for out-patient therapy,” Neary said.
Current plans call for the new infusion center to be open on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays. But allowances are being made for patients who require more intensive service, Hallman said.
Neary said it has been great to see the many diverse Porter Medical Center departments work so well in coordinating services through the infusion center.
“It has been such a group effort,” Neary said. “All of the departments are coming together.”
Reporter John Flowers is at johnf@addisonindependent.com.

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