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Opinion: Moving from a vision to a plan at Porter Medical Center

This week’s writer is Dr. Fred Kniffin, interim CEO of Porter Medical Center
In my first “Community Commentary” as the interim CEO of Porter Medical Center, I focused my message on the status of adult primary care here in Addison County and the recent loss of a number of valued physician colleagues. Clearly, this is among the most immediate and important issues we need to address as an organization and community.
Since I wrote that first message just a few weeks ago, we have been hard at work to determine the best path forward for addressing this very real and immediate community need, and although I am reluctant to say that we have the level of detail required to call it a “plan,” we do have a vision, and we are moving forward with a true sense of urgency. Given the importance of this topic, I want to share with you the progress we are making on this issue.
First, let me describe how I view the challenge. We have suffered a loss of adult primary care providers. This loss has been greatest in Middlebury and greatest in our department of Internal Medicine. So, although we will continue to have 18 Porter-employed providers of adult primary care in our community after the loss of several providers this spring, the majority of these remaining providers are located in the communities surrounding Middlebury (Brandon, Bristol and Vergennes) rather than here in Middlebury — our population center. It’s clear to me that we must focus initially on recruiting primary care physicians to fill the void in Middlebury. During one of my community presentations last week at the EastView Retirement Community, I asked the 40 people in attendance how many of them are losing their provider. Every hand in the audience was raised. This is our challenge and, as referenced earlier, we at Porter have adopted the same sense of urgency felt by our patients.
So here is our vision. First and foremost, we are actively recruiting new providers. Ads are posted for both Internal Medicine and Family Medicine, physicians and Advance Practice providers. We have already received some interest in the open positions and have interviews scheduled.
The second issue is office space in Middlebury — and we are looking at all options. We have reviewed what is available in terms of commercial real estate as well as reached out to other community non-profit organizations which might have interest in collaborating. These conversations are ongoing.
Once we identify the best space for this practice and successfully attract new providers, we will create a premier adult medicine practice right here in Middlebury. The plan is for a core group of providers — some of whom specialize in Family Medicine and some who specialize in Internal Medicine. Our vision calls for this medical office space to be newly renovated, efficient and fully equipped to meet the needs of both our providers and patients. I envision a truly great practice … a practice we can all be proud of … a practice that meets the high expectations set by our community and patients.
This is a big project with many moving pieces, and, as I’ve said, it will take time. It could take 12-18 months or so to complete. The important thing is that the work is under way.
Please be assured that, for the short-term, we are applying all the resources at our disposal toward continuing to meet the health care needs of our community, communicating with our patients and providing the most seamless transitions possible.
Providing care for our community is our mission. We will achieve our mission.
I thank you for your patience and support during these challenging times.

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