On March 13, 2020

Southwestern Vermont Medical Center Launches COVID-19 Hotline

Screening at Entry and Digital Information Session Aim to Increase Information and Awareness

BENNINGTON, VT—March 12, 2020—Southwestern Vermont Medical Center (SVMC), part of Southwestern Vermont Health Care (SVHC), is continuously working to minimize the spread of COVID-19, while providing safe care for all patients. The most recent actions include the launch of a COVID-19 hotline and a respiratory etiquette check-in at the main entrance.

“Proactive monitoring and protection efforts have made SVMC safe for those with appointments and procedures scheduled,” said Tom Dee, SVHC’s president and CEO. “We want our patients to feel confident that SVMC is open and ready to provide the care they need.”



A COVID-19 information hotline is now available at 802-440-8844. The most commonly requested information is delivered via a recorded message, after which a representative answers between the hours of 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. on weekdays.

SVMC recommends primary care providers as the best source for individual guidance and information. The hotline offers support for primary care providers and ensures those who do not have a provider get the information and services they need.

“Everyone’s situation is a little bit different,” said Paula Johnson, director of Quality, Safety and Value at SVMC. “The aim of the hotline is to deliver the information that patients need in a customized and timely way. We hope this will empower community members to take actions that will help ensure their safety and limit the spread of the illness.”


Front Entrance Check-In

Patients and visitors to the hospital will now notice signage that directs them to the touch-free automatic door at the main entrance. Patients have the option to go immediately to the Emergency Department for care or stop at a respiratory etiquette check-in, where they will be greeted and asked whether they have a cough, fever, or shortness of breath. Those with symptoms are given a mask, and all are given a sticker with the date and which department or unit they are visiting. These efforts will allow clinical professionals to take the appropriate measures to ensure safety for all patients, visitors, and staff.

“If someone in the building has a cough or a fever, we need to know about it,” said Trey Dobson, MD, chief medical officer for SVMC. “These new screening measures ensure that we treat that person appropriately and minimize exposure to others.”



The respiratory check-in is also provides an opportunity to reinforce the flu-season visitor policy, which recommends that those with symptoms of infectious disease (respiratory or gastrointestinal) wait until they are well to visit in person. In addition, visits are limited to those who are over the age of 18 and to no more than two per patient at a time.

In addition, for the safety of patients and residents, the visitor policies at the Centers for Living and Rehabilitation, on SVMC’s Bennington Campus, and The Center for Nursing and Rehabilitation at Hoosick Falls have been updated to exclude all except medical visits.

“We know it is difficult to forego in-person visits with loved ones in our care,” said Suzanne Anair, who administrates both facilities. “But we trust that the families of our patients and residents will understand our desire to protect them from exposure to this potentially devastating illness.”


Digital Information Session

The hospital is partnering with the Southwestern Vermont Chamber of Commerce and Catamount Access Television (CAT-TV) to present an online lunch and learn session for area business members at 1:30 p.m. on Monday, March 16. The session will feature SVHC’s President and CEO Tom Dee and SVMC’s Chief Medical Officer Trey Dobson, MD. Participants will be able to ask questions related to COVID-19. Chamber members and members of the public can access the session at www.facebook.com/CATTVbennington/.  It will air on CAT-TV and be posted to www.SouthwesternVermontChamber.com/lunchandlearn.

“We lean on the strength of our award-winning health care system to keep us informed and safe.  We appreciate all the hard work Southwestern Vermont Medical Center and our other healthcare members are doing during this crisis,” said Matt Harrington, executive director, Southwestern Vermont Chamber of Commerce. “We hope this Lunch and Learn provides a regional perspective and good information to the many communities we serve.”


Drive-Up Testing

SVMC nurses conduct a drive-up test for COVID-19.

For patients who have a referral for COVID-19 testing from their primary care provider, SVMC offers drive-up testing. The service allows patients to remain in their cars. The process was initiated over the weekend to minimize potential viral exposure to other patients and staff for patients who do not need emergency care or monitoring. Clinical staff wear personal protective equipment (PPE), swab patients in their cars, and remind patients to practice self-isolation until results are known. Samples are sent to the Vermont lab for results, which typically arrive to the primary care provider within 96 hours. The State of Vermont is not charging for the test.

Dee continued, “We have an extraordinary team of professionals and dedicated community leaders all committed to ensuring, as best as we can, that this virus has as little impact as possible on the health of our communities. The situation is changing rapidly. We aim to keep everyone informed, so we can all work together in this important effort.”

If you think you have been exposed to someone with COVID-19, call your state’s department of health. Telephone numbers and other COVID-19 information, including frequently asked questions and helpful resources, are available at svhealthcare.org. The site is updated continuously.


About SVHC:
Southwestern Vermont Health Care (SVHC) is a comprehensive, preeminent, health care system providing exceptional, convenient, and affordable care to the communities of Bennington and Windham Counties of Vermont, eastern Rensselaer and Washington Counties of New York, and northern Berkshire County in Massachusetts. SVHC includes Southwestern Vermont Medical Center (SVMC), Southwestern Vermont Regional Cancer Center, the Centers for Living and Rehabilitation, and the SVHC Foundation. SVMC includes 25 primary and specialty care practices. For more information, visit svhealthcare.org.


Southwestern Vermont Medical Center provides exceptional care without discriminating on the basis of an individual’s age, race, ethnicity, religion, culture, language, physical or mental disability, socioeconomic status, sex, sexual orientation, or gender identity or expression. Language assistance services, free of charge, are available at 1-800-367-9559.

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