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An architectural rendering of the addition to Grace Cottage Hospital, which will expand the footprint of the tiny medical facility’s emergency department.

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Grace Cottage emergency dept. expansion underway

Hospital says the project will improve patient triage, comfort, and privacy

To donate to help Grace Cottage raise the remaining needed funds, call 802-365-9109 or visit gracecottage.org, or send checks payable to Grace Cottage to P.O. Box 1, Townshend, VT 05353.

TOWNSHEND—Construction has started on a $650,000 expansion of the Grace Cottage Family Health & Hospital emergency area to enhance patient comfort and privacy and improve patient flow and security.

“This is a very exciting and much-needed renovation, allowing us to efficiently see the increasing number of patients visiting our Emergency Department” says President and CEO Doug DiVello.

“The technology available in our Emergency Department, especially with our recent link to Dartmouth Health’s TeleEd and TeleNeurology service, is, quite frankly, astonishing for a rural hospital of our small size and the support that we’ve received from the community for this project has been overwhelming,” DiVello said.

Work on the historic facility at 185 Grafton Rd. will include building a 250-square-foot canopy and a 1,050-square-foot addition to the emergency area.

The new ambulance entrance will allow patients coming by ambulance on stretchers to remain “under cover at all times,” said Andrea Seaton, senior director of development, marketing and community relations.

“And the entrance for people coming into the ER on foot will be separate from the ambulance entrance,” she added. “We will also have an ER waiting room dedicated to ER patients. Currently, the waiting room is in the hospital itself. In addition, there will be a dedicated triage room.”

The ER will remain open around the clock and emergency service will be uninterrupted during construction, expected to be completed in May.

A temporary entrance, in the glassed-in Nessel Pavilion on the south side of the hospital, is well marked.

“Our emergency department will be fully open during construction,” DiVello says.

The portico will allow ambulances to pull in under a covered ambulance entrance to protect patients from the weather. The separate entrance for walk-in patients will include a private, comfortable check-in station, allowing for private conversation between patient and registration clerk.

Patients will have access to a nearby restroom and can wait for treatment in a private waiting room. The new triage room will serve for initial assessment and to treat minor issues, leaving the specially equipped treatment and trauma rooms ready for more severe issues.

The expanded emergency department will also included a dedicated space for the presence of a seven-night-a-week overnight security officer.

Brunelle & Son Construction of Brattleboro is undertaking the expansion work.

A community of giving

To date, 97% of the estimated cost of the project — $633,000 — has been raised for the project, for which fundraising was initiated in 2021. Several grants are being sought to help with the remaining balance.

When fundraising started in earnest in 2021, a technical assistance grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture through the Brattleboro Development Credit Corporation helped hire health care architects from E4H (Environments for Health Architecture) of Burlington, with whom the hospital has worked previously, to develop an initial site plan.

Seaton says the needed money has come from the annual Hospital Fair days, Giving Tuesdays, Cabin Fever auctions, and annual golf tournaments over the past two years.

Money raised from those events was augmented by private donations as well as by a number of gifts from foundations, including the Windham Foundation and the Rotary Club of the Deerfield Valley, as well as the Red Sox Foundation in Boston.

Asked how the latter came to a hospital in very rural Vermont, Seaton says, “We came to their attention as being an excellent mental health provider in the state,” adding with a clear measure of pride, “it was a vote by Vermonters that gave us that award.”

This year on Giving Tuesday, an annual November online fundraiser, the initiative saw 144% of that day’s $50,000 goal raised: $72,023.

“It’s been wonderful,” Seaton says. “The community has been so supportive. They know we have a wonderful emergency department and they want to be sure it continues to be here to serve them long into the future.”

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Originally published in The Commons issue #697 (Wednesday, January 11, 2023). This story appeared on page A1.

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