As the VNA & Hospice of the Southwest Region turns 75, one of the largest home health agencies in Vermont, is celebrating a proud legacy of achievement while looking ahead to the critical role home health care plays in the future.
“Despite the advances in medicine since our agency began, the power of home-based patient-centered care is remarkable,” said Ron Cioffi, RN, and CEO of the VNA & Hospice of the Southwest Region. “Our agency started with a mission to bring skilled care into the home and help people heal where they are most comfortable. We have never lost sight of that initial vision and continue to provide the best possible medical care to the entire community.”
Incorporated on Jan. 9, 1946, for “promoting health, preventing disease by teaching principles of health, to provide skilled nursing for the care of the sick and to provide other therapeutic services,” the services were then limited to Rutland City residents only.
Today, there are offices in Bennington, Dorset, Manchester, and Rutland, and more than 300 health professionals.
With the hiring of Miss Mary Stuart, RN as the agency’s first nurse and director, that care has expanded from 709 home visits in 1946 to more than 133,000 in 2019.
From 1946 to 1966 there were never more than two nurses on staff. Today’s team of clinicians provides a wide range of skills and certifications including physical, speech, and occupational therapists, hi-tech nurses for children and adults, home health aides, personal care attendants, medical social workers, behavioral health nurses, and hospice and palliative care certified staff.
The agency continues to incorporate the latest advances in technology which enables us to perform therapies and monitor patients in ways once reserved for hospital-type settings including intravenous therapy, high-tech wound care, nutritional tube feedings, and telemedicine.
• In the 1960s, Medicare began to cover the costs of home care and in 1967, the agency, then known as the Rutland Visiting Nurse Association, received a federal grant to expand services through Medicare. Through the late 60s and early 70s, the agency expanded services to all of Rutland County (with the exception of Pittsfield and Sherburne which were covered by another agency).
• By the 1970s, the number of procedures that could be accomplished in the home included home dialysis, rehabilitation services, and homemaker home health aide services in collaboration with the Area Agency on Aging.
• In the 1980s, most insurance plans expanded coverage to reimburse for home care and the agency established a high-tech nursing team. In 1988, the agency negotiated with a hospice volunteer program and regional providers to establish a Medicare-certified Hospice program.
• The agency continued to experience growth in the 90s by collaborating with Rutland Regional Medical Center to provide essential pediatric rehabilitation services through Kids on the Move, initiated psychiatric nursing for home care patients, and established the Maternal Child Health Program for new and expectant mothers and their babies. In 1996, the agency officially merged with Rutland Area Hospice and changed the name of the agency to the Rutland Area VNA & Hospice.
• At the turn of the century, in the early 2000s, the agency focused on immunization and reaching the most vulnerable in our community with the flu vaccine, which continues as an annual activity to protect the elderly, the frail, and the homebound. The agency also focused on expanding its’ reach by merging with Dorset Nursing Service in 2007, acquiring the VNA & Hospice of Southern Vermont Medical Center in 2014 and merging with Manchester Health Services in 2017, and unifying the agency under the name of VNA & Hospice of the Southwest Region.