Top 10, No. 6: Porter starts new phase in medical affiliation

Porter Medical Center in 2017 officially sealed its affiliation with the University of Vermont Health Network, and immediately began planning for bigger things — including repairs to its nursing home and new facilities on its campus off South Street.
It was quite the turnaround for what is now known as the “University of Vermont/Porter Medical Center.”
Only a year earlier, PMC had been laying off staff, mopping up red ink and watching some of its health care providers leave for other jobs.
Porter CEO Dr. Fred Kniffin and Dr. John Brumsted, president and CEO of both UVMHN and University of Vermont Medical Center, applauded the new organizational union at a May ceremony in Middlebury. The new partnership, officials noted, would net Porter — 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 and UVMHN hired a consultant to help draft a facilities master plan detailing potential new construction and renovations at PMC during the ensuing five years. Officials plan to go public with details of that plan in early January.
At the same time, Porter providers began their transition to becoming UVMHN employees, though they would continue to be dedicated to the Middlebury campus. On the other hand, UVMHN began sharing some of its professionals with Porter. Among the first was Dr. Diana Barnard, who was picked to lead palliative care services at Porter Medical Center. Barnard had for the past five years presided over UVM Medical Center’s Palliative Care Team.
In another major personnel move, Porter hired Mary Jane Nottonson as the new director of  Helen Porter Healthcare & Rehabilitation. Nottonson learned she would need to quickly guide HPH&R through a significant renovation project while simultaneously looking at ways to shore up a fiscal year 2017 deficit estimated at $2.1 million.
The $850,000 Helen Porter project will make the facility better equipped to serve patients rehabbing from serious injuries and illnesses, as well as those in the final stages of their lives. Specifically, it will include five new patient rooms, two specially designed rooms for terminally ill patients, and a few private rooms for patients.
Porter and UVMHN officials on Nov. 6 made their pitch to Vermont’s Green Mountain Care Board for a new, $151 million Epic-brand electronic medical records system that would allow patients’ histories — including medication lists, past procedures and hospital stays — to be seamlessly transferred and viewed by health care professionals within the network. With a nod from the Green Mountain Care Board, the Epic system would be installed at Porter, the UVM Medical Center, Central Vermont Medical Center and Champlain Valley Physicians Hospital.
Green Mountain Care Board officials were still considering the Epic request as December drew to a close.
The many nurses serving PMC got some good news in 2017, in the form of a new, three-year labor contract. The pact assured nurses cost-of-living salary adjustments of 2 percent in each of the three years of their new deal, and also establishes a Nursing Practice Council to help ensure “appropriate staffing levels” and “the highest quality patient and resident care” at the medical center.
In the midst of all this change, Porter, beginning in February, was piloting a “next generation” payment model for its Medicaid patients. Under this scheme, the government makes a lump sum payment to Porter to cover Medicaid costs for a set number of patients rather than reimbursing the hospital for costs based on procedures.
Under this model Porter has received around $4 million in Medicaid funds to pay the medical costs of around 2,600 at-risk, Addison County patients who are enrolled in that federally subsidized health insurance program. The $4 million allotment was intended to cover expenses for the Medicaid pool of patients through this December.

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