Brattleboro (Vt.) Memorial Hospital found itself deferring much-needed capital improvements as a result of the uncertainty caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on cash flow. While other hospitals made the switch to telehealth solutions, the rural hospital needed to address dated network infrastructure that was making timely connections difficult. 

This is where the Emergency Rural Health Care (ERHC) grants, established as part of the American Rescue Plan, became invaluable. In September, the Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Development group awarded Brattleboro Memorial more than $637,000 in grants through the ERHC. 

The hospital used part of the grant to invest in a secure telehealth software platform. 

“Because we are a relatively small community hospital, this has really helped us bring specialist capabilities here that we would not necessarily have been able to prior to moving to this new platform,” says Chris Dougherty, president and CEO at Brattleboro Memorial. 

In addition, the hospital made several infrastructure upgrades to boost the new software’s processing efficiency. 

The USDA grant made it possible to replace the hospital’s dated hardware with network switches in line with today’s industry standards. The hospital also upgraded the infrastructure supporting its telephone system that was likewise nearing its end of life. 

“We had such an old system that we had a solid console for our switchboard,” Dougherty says. By upgrading to a digital switchboard system, hospital staff can now access the switchboard from any device with secure access. 

“It has been very important for us to have this kind of flexibility,” Dougherty says. “We have the ability to cover our main lines much more adeptly in the event of unexpected staff shortages.” 

The grant also supported a new clinician mobile workstation.