UVM Medical Center re-opens inpatient rehabilitation at Fanny Allen Campus

-A A +A

UVM Medical Center re-opens inpatient rehabilitation at Fanny Allen Campus

Wed, 01/12/2022 - 2:41pm -- tim

Patients, Staff Return to Space Today After Extensive Renovations to Airflow System

Vermont Business Magazine Earlier today, The University of Vermont Medical Center began transferring its inpatient rehabilitation unit from its temporary main campus location, back to its location on the Fanny Allen campus in Colchester. In addition to previous upgrades, the Hospital Services team worked throughout 2021 with outside experts to assess, renovate and optimize the space’s complex system of filtration, ventilation, air conditioning and heating units, which was outdated and did not allow for optimal airflow in spaces where staff had reported symptoms such as dizziness and nausea.

“After much work and careful preparation, we are ready to make a safe and much-anticipated return to the inpatient rehab space at our Fanny Allen campus,” said Stephen Leffler, MD, President and Chief Operating Officer of The UVM Medical Center. “We committed to return to this space only when we were sure it was safe, and are happy to be able to use it again. We will continue to closely monitor air quality and safety going forward to ensure that the renovations are working as intended.”

Dr. Leffler lauded the inpatient rehabilitation team’s flexibility and creativity in making the temporary main campus space meet the unique needs of their patients for more than a year, but noted the Fanny Allen space is better designed for the purpose. The Fanny Allen space has more beds, easy access to a rehabilitation gym, ceiling lifts and convenient parking for patients, families and staff. Reopening this space and freeing up beds on the hospital’s main campus is an important step in The UVM Health Network’s Access Action Plan, which is aimed at reducing delays in patient access to outpatient, inpatient and specialty care, and ensuring continued access to urgent and emergency care amid unprecedented patient need.

History

Inpatient rehabilitation has been located on the UVM Medical Center’s main campus since late October 2020, when 14 patients were transferred from Fanny Allen out of an abundance of caution for safety after staff members reported symptoms including dizziness and nausea. Patients and staff had returned to the space earlier that same month, following a number of upgrades and improvements after a similar event. No patients experienced symptoms during either even and all staff who experienced symptoms were treated and recovered. Air quality data continued to be safe.

At the time, Dr. Leffler acknowledged frustration with the situation, but said, “the safety of our patients and staff comes first.”

Similar air quality events occurred in the perioperative space on the Fanny Allen campus at different times, where the operating rooms have been closed also out of an abundance of caution since November 2020. The perioperative space is on a separate air system, which is also being renovated with the goal of reopening this year. While these two spaces were closed, other services have continued to safely operate at Fanny Allen, including Urgent Care, outpatient rehabilitation, and a COVID-19 testing site.

Renovations

When Gary Scott took on the role of Vice President of Hospital Services for the UVM Medical Center in late 2020, he brought extensive experience addressing environmental quality issues within buildings. Scott led the team in reevaluating potential root causes of symptoms that had been documented, building on work that had already been done, and subsequently in overseeing a major renovation of the building and the mechanical systems that serve it – including two new air handlers, upgrading and cleaning of ductwork, and installation of additional airflow devices.

Additional testing and review showed that air flow and circulation did not meet engineering best practice in some areas, including those where symptoms were reported by staff, such as the nursing station. Increased use of cleaning chemicals during the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic has not been identified as a specific contributor to symptoms, but has not been ruled out.

“Air quality events like these can happen when several complex factors interact with each other, which can make it difficult to identify one single cause,” Scott said. “However, we expect that the additional work we have done will result in significant improvement of air quality,” Scott said, adding that it corrects air flow problems in the existing system, and that the upgraded system will be capable of reliably providing cooling or heating throughout the year, even when temperatures fluctuate – something the outdated system struggled with, especially in the unpredictable early spring and late fall months.

“Gary brought fresh eyes to this challenge and identified tangible changes we needed to make,” Leffler said. “Being able to use the inpatient rehab space again will be great for our patients and staff. I am confident that the renovations will make this a more comfortable space for everyone, and we will continue to monitor to ensure the upgrades are working as intended and that the air quality is safe.” 

Since renovations and additional testing were completed, a multidisciplinary team has been working to prepare for a move back to the space, which will continue through the day today.

Timeline:

  • May 2020: Patients and staff moved to main campus after staff reported symptoms.
  • Summer and early fall 2020: Investigation conducted, improvements made to space.
  • Early October 2020: Inpatient rehab space re-opened.
  • October 31, 2020: Inpatient rehab space closed again after staff reported symptoms, patients and staff transferred to main campus.
  • November 2020 to present: Additional investigation conducted; system renovated, air handler replaced; outside experts reviewed and tested new equipment, airflow, air quality.
  • January 12, 2022: Patients and staff return to inpatient rehab space.

About the University of Vermont Medical Center
The University of Vermont Medical Center  is a 499-bed tertiary care regional referral center providing advanced care to approximately 1 million residents in Vermont and northern New York. Together with our partners at the Larner College of Medicine at the University of Vermont and the College of Nursing and Health Sciences, we are Vermont’s academic medical center. The University of Vermont Medical Center also serves as a community hospital for approximately 150,000 residents in Chittenden and Grand Isle counties. 

The University of Vermont Medical Center is a member of The University of Vermont Health Network.

Source: BURLINGTON, Vt. – UVMMC 1.12.2022