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Porter Enters New Phase of Planning in Evaluating Independence or UVM Health Network Affiliation

MIDDLEBURY— Today, Dr. Fred Kniffin shared with Porter Medical Center employees that the PMC Board of Directors has identified the University of Vermont Health Network as their potential partner, should they choose affiliation at the conclusion of Porter’s ongoing strategic planning process. The UVM Health Network was selected from among four institutions that responded to their affiliation request for proposals. He noted that determining the future of Porter Medical Center had entered a new phase; the continued evaluation of independence vs. entering into an affiliation agreement with the University of Vermont Health Network.

For well over a year, the Porter Medical Center Board of Directors has been engaged in a comprehensive and extensive strategic planning process to chart the future course for Porter as either an independent health care organization or as an affiliated partner with another medical system. The process has included significant research, deliberations, community conversations and multiple forums with providers and employees.

“We have evaluated other potential partner options and had multiple conversations, presentations and face to face meetings with the leaders of interested organizations,” Dr. Kniffin said. “It is abundantly clear that if we choose to partner, our best partnering option would be with the UVM Health Network. That is now the only affiliation option that we are considering, should we decide to make that choice.”

Throughout this evaluation period, Porter has hosted a dozen informational forums with staff, providers and the general community to engage them in this conversation and solicit their thoughts, ideas and concerns about both options. The goal according to Kniffin is to create a shared vision of the best path forward to ensure that the people within the PMC service area continue to receive access to high quality, comprehensive and patient-focused health care, as well as position Porter for health care reform and the coming significant changes in Vermont’s health care delivery system.

“What we have heard loud and clear from our community and our providers and staff during our forums is that maintaining local access to the highest level of health care services appropriate for a community hospital is essential,” Dr. Kniffin summarized. “That includes access to local primary and specialty care, maintaining all of our current inpatient and ancillary hospital services, as well as the skilled nursing care offered by Helen Porter Rehabilitation & Nursing Center.

“Quality and access to care are our top priority, and it is clear that the incredible resources and providers within the UVM Health Network represent a significant potential opportunity for enhancing health care in our community,” he added. “We continue to evaluate our financial future and are comparing what we could accomplish alone vs. what we could accomplish as part of a larger and stronger system.”

“These are important conversations about the future of health care in our community, and our board and leadership team are completely focused on what is best for our patients, residents and the organization that has played a central role in the lives of our neighbors for 91 years,” Kniffin concluded.

Another series of informational forums is now underway, including a planned community-wide forum on August 24th at 7:00 p.m. in Middlebury at the Middlebury Regional EMS headquarters. At that meeting, more specific details will be shared on both the quality and financial considerations being vetted by the PMC board, which anticipates making a final decision this fall.