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Porter Hospital rolling back COVID masking policy

“Porter is confident that we can keep our community healthy while easing up on COVID policies and procedures, including these masking and visitation guidelines.”
— Dr. Anna Benvenuto

MIDDLEBURY — Porter Medical Center and other UVM Health Network hospitals in Vermont next week will roll back most COVID-era masking requirements and restrictions on hospital visitation.

On Wednesday, April 12, the three UVMHN hospitals in Vermont — Porter in Middlebury, University of Vermont Medical Center in Burlington and Central Vermont Medical Center in Berlin — will lift masking requirements for patients and employees in public areas, and return to pre-COVID hospital visitation guidelines for most clinical units where visitor restrictions were not in place before the pandemic.

Hospital employees continue to be required to wear masks while in patient rooms, exam rooms and while providing direct patient care. The hospitals’ updated masking policies make masking optional for staff while they are in public areas, and optional for patients and visitors in all areas, unless they have symptoms of respiratory illness.

Immunocompromised individuals and those with health concerns may request additional accommodations by contacting their care provider or notifying a staff member in the office they are visiting, to ensure all patients are able to safely get medical care. Free surgical/procedural masks will still be available at all hospital entrances, the organizations said.

Similarly, the hospitals’ updated visitor policies will roll back COVID-era visitation restrictions for most clinical units, facilities and offices where visiting was not restricted prior to the pandemic. Some high-risk clinical units, such as infusion suites and dialysis clinics, will continue to impose restrictions on visitors. Areas where visitation restrictions existed prior to the pandemic, such as Neonatal Intensive Care Units and inpatient psychiatry clinics, will continue to have certain restrictions in place.

“Porter is confident that we can keep our community healthy while easing up on COVID policies and procedures, including these masking and visitation guidelines,” said Dr. Anna Benvenuto, MD, chief medical officer at Porter Medical Center. “This will not change our priority of providing compassionate care while keeping all patients, residents and visitors safe. All Porter facilities will still have masks available for anyone who wants or needs one.”

Porter encompasses a 25-bed acute care hospital, 105-bed skilled nursing facility and a network of medical in Middlebury, Vergennes and Brandon.

Detailed information on updates to masking and visitation policies at each hospital are available on each organization’s website. For Porter Medical Center go online to tinyurl.com/PorterMasks, for UVM Medical Center go to tinyurl.com/UVMBurlingtonMasks and for Central Vermont Medical Center go to tinyurl.com/CVMCmasks.

Officials at the hospitals said the decision to end the restrictions and requirements, which have been in place for three years amid the global pandemic, was made in consultation with clinical leaders and infection prevention teams across the organizations, and after a thorough review by a panel of clinicians with wide-ranging expertise in infectious disease, infection prevention, critical and emergency care, pediatrics, microbiology, nursing, respiratory therapy, clinical microbiology and medical ethics.

“For the last three years masking and visitor restrictions have been in place and have done an amazing job of keeping our patients and teams safe,” said Stephen Leffler, MD, President and Chief Operating Officer of UVM Medical Center. “From a clinical perspective, these changes in policy reflect a thoughtful, evidence-based approach to safeguarding public health while allowing our patients, visitors and staff to safely navigate this new phase of the COVID-19 landscape. We continue to have procedures in place to protect our most vulnerable populations. These are positive changes for many of our patients, their families and our staff. I’m excited to see patient and staff smiles when I walk down the hallways again.”

MASKS IN NEW YORK HOSPITALS

The masking and visitation changes do not affect UVM Health Network hospitals in northern New York, where masking requirements and hospital visitation policies remain in effect, in accordance with New York State Department of Health guidelines.

“Alice Hyde Medical Center and CVPH continue to welcome visitors of all ages. However, visitors, employees and patients are required to wear a surgical mask while in our facilities,” said Brenda Murphy, associate vice president of Quality and Safety. Patients, visitors and staff at Elizabethtown Community Hospital are also required to mask while on the hospital’s premises.

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