NMC Commentary

Has Local Access to Pediatrics Expanded?

Yes!  There have been a number of exciting expansions to access for Pediatrics care in northwestern Vermont recently and more to come soon!  New physicians have joined NMC’s medical staff, providers’ presence in local offices has shifted, provider offices have changed hours, and a new school-based clinic is being developed.  I am so pleased to share these advancements with you as the health of the children in our community is so important both now and for the future.  Having a close and trusting relationship with a primary care provider, such as a Pediatrician, is such an important part of each child’s development and the shaping of their healthy habits on their journey to a healthy lifestyle.

We are so happy to have welcomed two new providers to the Northwestern Pediatrics team: Dr. Jennifer Covino and Dr. Scott Spicer. Dr. Covino sees patients in St. Albans and Dr. Spicer in Enosburg Falls. Both are accepting new patients.  Dr. Covino most recently worked as a pediatric resident at University of Vermont Medical Center and is eager to develop the lasting relationships with her patients to see families from birth through adolescence – an age group she enjoys working with. Dr. Spicer comes to NMC from the Canton-Potsdam Hospital and was excited to join the Northwestern Pediatrics team in part because of their teamwork and support for one another. This growing practice offers a welcoming approach and a compassionate spirit of care, forming a strong presence that includes Dr. Chip Chiappinelli, Dr. Deanne Haag, Dr. Laura Bellstrom, Dr. Roya Mansoorani, Dr. Stacy Strouse and Dr. Heidi Zvolensky.

In addition to adding caring, talented providers to a remarkable team of established physicians, Northwestern Pediatrics is adapting their hours of service to improve access for local families.  Their Swanton office will now be open five days per week, from 9 am to 4:30 pm. Dr. Scott Spicer will begin seeing patients there starting in July. Dr. Chiappinelli will keep his current schedule in Swanton: Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays in the office and Thursdays in the Pediatric clinic at Missisquoi Valley Union for greater convenience for students.  In addition, Dr. Laura Bellstrom is adding hours in the Enosburg office of Northwestern Pediatrics on Wednesdays. This means she will now be seeing patients in both St. Albans and Enosburg!

Based on feedback from parents, Northwestern Pediatrics has also improved how telephone calls are handled, as that can be an important component of access. Their offices are now taking your calls earlier, and through the lunch hour to better accommodate your busy schedule. You can reach a triage nurse starting at 8 a.m., an hour before the offices open. You can also now speak to a triage nurse when you call between noon and 1 p.m. as well.

I mentioned Dr. Chip’s long-standing presence within MVU.  That kind of access can be so important to adolescents and young adults, an age group that historically has the lowest rates of seeking primary care services. Embedding a Pediatrician in a school can make a measurable improvement in access.  A Robert Wood Johnson data showed that 71% of students enrolled in a school based health clinic reported a recent healthcare visit compared to 59% of student peers not enrolled in a school based health clinic.  That’s a significant difference.  Based on the success of Dr. Chip’s work with MVU, Northwestern Pediatrics is currently working with BFA St. Albans to create a similar Pediatric presence within that high school.  This new clinic will feature Dr. Jennifer Covino and is planned to open this fall. We appreciate the opportunity to bring primary care right into the school to help ensure students have ready access to the care they need as they move through adolescence into young adulthood.

I am not sure there is anything more precious to a community than the health of its children. We are so fortunate to have such a strong medical staff caring for our kids, including all of the Pediatricians and Family Practice Specialists across our communities.  Please help ensure that the children in your life are connected with a caring provider and get the preventive care they need to help them on their path to a healthy future.  For assistance finding a provider, please call Erin in NMC’s Community Relations office at 524-1280 or email her at [email protected].

— Jill Berry Bowen, NMC’s Chief Executive Officer