Porter Medical Center celebrates new partnership

MIDDLEBURY — Porter Medical Center CEO Dr. Fred Kniffin has always compared the hospital’s affiliation process with University of Vermont Health Network to a courtship.
There was an initial period of “dating” last year when Porter was considering the possibility of joining UVMHN’s family of five medical institutions in Northern New York and Vermont.
Then UVMHN metaphorically “proposed” to Porter early this year when it offered a partnership that would net Porter Medical Center, among other things, long-term financial stability; more diverse health care services; a new medical office building; and an upgrade to its electronic medical records system.
Porter’s voting members said “yes” to the proposal in mid-March when they made the necessary bylaw changes to sign a marriage contract with UVMHN, which included the University of Vermont Medical Center, Alice Hyde Medical Center of Malone, N.Y., Central Vermont Medical Center of Berlin, Champlain Valley Physicians Hospital of Plattsburgh, N.Y., and Elizabethtown (N.Y.) Community Hospital.
On Thursday morning, Porter symbolically gave up its 92 years of being single and began its honeymoon with UVMHN at a ceremony on the Middlebury campus and cookout attended by more than 150 people.
“We are gathered here today to recognize the union of two great organizations — UVMHN and Porter Medical Center,” Kniffin said to the assembled crowd of PMC staff, physicians, patients, board members and area residents.
“From this day forward, and I say this with great pride, we are the University of Vermont Health Network – Porter Medical Center,” he added, alluding to the inscription in the institution’s new campus sign, which was unveiled at the ceremony.
“We are going to take everything that is great about Porter — the quality of care, the compassion with which we deliver it, and the convenience of having it here locally — and we are going to add to that everything that is great about UVM Medical Center,” Kniffin continued. “Their staff, their sophistication and their academic mission. The sum of the parts will in fact be greater than the (individual) parts.”
Kniffin promised the new union will pay dividends for area patients, whom he said will enjoy better care close to home.
“We are building a system that will meet our mission of improving the health of our community,” Kniffin said. “Together, we are going to improve access to services here in Addison County. Together, we are going to integrate the delivery of care here in Addison County. Together, we are going to enhance our facilities and stabilize our finances.”
PMC board Chairwoman Maureen McLaughlin thanked the Addison County community for weighing in on the affiliation issue during a series of public forums last year. That feedback, she said, will help shape Porter during the decades to come.
“What is a legacy? It’s planting seeds in a garden you never get to see,” McLaughlin said. “Today, we plant the seeds for Porter’s next 92 years.”
Dr. Stephen Koller, president of Porter’s Medical staff, offered a philosophical take on the new partnership between the two medical institutions.
“In fostering this relationship, we not only create good patient experiences and the quality that flows from that place, we not only improve access and outcomes, we not only increase efficiency and cost effectiveness, but we create a common story,” Koller said. “A story that becomes the foundation for an evolving common culture that helps guarantee that the values we hold most high are perpetuated into the future in a way that serves our communities and our patients long after this ceremony is forgotten.”
Koller added he’s looking forward to helping write the “shared story” that Porter and UVMHN network will create in delivering services to the community at large.
“Stories don’t write themselves, after all,” Koller said. “So let us all roll up our sleeves, sharpen our quills and co-author a story of cooperation and collaboration that not just aspires, but also inspires.”
Dr. John Brumstead, president and CEO of both UVMHN and University of Vermont Medical Center, applauded the new organizational union and took a moment to marvel and the expanded breadth of the network’s reach. He recounted a recent, round-trip plane ride he and some other top hospital administrators took from St. Lawrence County, N.Y., to Burlington, Vt.
As they flew over the Adirondacks and Lake Champlain, Brumstead said he “turned to the people who were in the plane with me and said, ‘As far as you can see, we’re responsible for people’s health care.’”
It’s a geographic area occupied by around 1 million prospective patients, according to Brumstead.
“Thank you all … for having the confidence in us to take what is going to be a great ride together,” Brumstead concluded.
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected].

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