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Letter to the editor: New ACHHH leadership made misleading assertions

I was a nurse at Addison County Home Health & Hospice (ACHHH) for nearly 40 years retiring in late 2017 and I am well aware of the many changes that have occurred recently, as reported in the recent article in The Independent. I experienced most of the history of the agency. I retired as the hospice director and had worked as a community health nurse and served two times as interim clinical director. I was, at the time of my retirement, and for many years prior to it, intimately involved in the management and function of the agency from every perspective, including financial, clinical and personnel. I worked with both Tim Brownell and Patrick Rooney for the approximately six months from when they started working for the agency and when I retired as planned. I must take issue with several comments they made in this article.
ACHHH is a not-for-profit agency which has served the residents of Addison County for 50 years. We have held an excellent reputation for the care provided our patients within the county and statewide. Over these many years we have had to contend with the ever-changing Medicare and Medicaid regulations and licensing requirements as health care is always in a state of flux. Agency management and staff have had to change how we operate many times in order to meet these changes while continuing to carry out our mission. Staff has never been opposed to change. The agency has had good financial years and less good ones. I do know that the agency was on sound financial footing when Mr. Brownell and Mr. Rooney arrived at the agency. It is a falsehood for them to imply that the agency was within days or weeks of failing due to its financial status.
I take issue with the implication that Mr. Brownell was responsible for the transition to the EHR (electronic health care record) currently in use at the agency. Because we had had such a bad experience with our first system, our CIO and management team spent two years vetting available systems which would support the need for the electronic record while being clinician friendly and which would least interfere with the care to our patients. The current system had been chosen and the initial phase of setting it up and moving to actual use was well underway before Mr. Brownell was hired.
The clinical staff was expectant and in many cases eager for the transition to this new system of documentation. We were only too well aware of the laborious and time-consuming nature of the paper record in the computer age. To imply that he had introduced this idea and dragged the agency into the 21st century is simply not true.
Prior to Mr. Brownell’s arrival at the agency the staff functioned in an open environment where each employee’s contribution to the agency was appreciated and supported. There was open communication and collaboration which made us all wiser and more effective employees. However, communication and discussion were ended with his arrival. Change was imposed with no reasons given.
Many highly skilled staff have left because of this new work environment. Many departures were made difficult by how management handled resignations. While no patient was harmed patient care was disrupted unnecessarily. Mr. Brownell has implied to the board that staff discontent and complaints were from older disgruntled staff opposed to change. Nothing could be further from the truth. The complaints by staff had and have to do with not having a voice and not being respected.
ACHHH has been an integral part of healthcare in Addison County for over 50 years. It will continue to function because of all the staff and their focus on our mission of providing high-quality health care to the residents of the county. Because of their integrity and dedication to the patients they have continued to do so in spite of current difficulties and with management.
The staff needs to be supported by the board and by the community for their hard work under adverse circumstances. A remedy to this untenable situation will hopefully occur. I could not allow the hard work and efforts by so many employees of this agency, past and present, to be misrepresented by the disingenuous and misleading statements of Mr. Brownell and Mr. Rooney.
Marcia S. Wheeler, RN BSN
Ripton

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