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COVID-19: Ticking clock demands local solutions

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The Coronavirus pandemic continues to demand timely, innovative solutions that focus on keeping people safe. And as we are learning, these solutions require the willingness of health care institutions to work together for the greater good.

With that in mind we want to reassure our neighbors and friends both locally and across Vermont that the Brattleboro Retreat and Brattleboro Memorial Hospital (BMH) have developed an effective way to address the needs of psychiatric patients with possible COVID-19 needs.

Even before this pandemic, an over-arching goal of the Retreat has been to help move psychiatric patients out of Vermont's emergency departments (EDs) and into appropriate treatment as safely and quickly as possible. While COVID-19 has added a tremendous sense of urgency to that goal, it has also posed new challenges arising from the differences in scope and practice between acute care and psychiatric hospitals.

To address this growing need, the Retreat made a determination to stop admitting out-of-state patients and focus resources on Vermont residents in hopes of taking the stress away from Vermont emergency departments. As this plan unfolded the Retreat did not anticipate using any of its beds to care for individuals testing positive for COVID-19 or exhibiting symptoms of the disease. We now recognize, given the need of the state, that is not possible

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So, while efforts are going on elsewhere in Vermont to address the local needs of psychiatric patients impacted by COVID-19, the Retreat and BMH have put a sound plan in place for our region.

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The medical staffs of both hospitals have joined forces to stand up a separate unit at the Retreat for the care of mild to moderate COVID-19 psychiatric patients. BMH has also agreed to have their community health team come to the Retreat to test persons under investigation (PUIs) at the Retreat, and they have agreed to admit any severely ill COVID-19-positive patients to their hospital.

To support this work the Retreat has developed a number of infection prevention protocols and is now providing staff with additional training and education to provide care in the new unit in ways that maximize their own safety and the safety of patients.

Our local community can be assured that BMH and the Retreat will continue to work with each other, with our state partners, with legislators, and other hospitals across Vermont to meet the multi-faceted challenges brought on by the Coronavirus.

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And wherever and whenever possible, the Retreat and BMH will partner with the Department of Mental Health to ensure that psychiatric patients receive the care they need and deserve.

The clinical teams at both hospitals are doing outstanding work to ensure that every person in our community stays safe and is able to receive all necessary medical and psychiatric care during this extraordinary moment in time. We are deeply grateful.

Louis Josephson, PhD. is the president and CEO of the Brattleboro Retreat. Steven R. Gordon is the president and CEO of Brattleboro Memorial Hospital


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