Business is booming at the Ridgefield Visiting Nurse Association. So much so that it recently opened a 10,000-square-foot outpatient rehabilitation center at its headquarters, the Center for Exceptional Care at 27 Governor St. in Ridgefield.
“We are now 100 percent occupied on three stories,” said RVNA President and CEO Theresa Santoro of the $9.5 million, 22,000-square-foot complex. The rehab center, which formally opened on Dec. 5, “allows us to serve our patients and our community even better than before,” she said.
For the 103-year-old visiting nurse association, its community stretches well beyond Ridgefield to encompass 27 additional municipalities in Fairfield, New Haven and Litchfield counties. The nonprofit group moved last March from its former home at nearby 90 East Ridge Road due to a steadily expanding patient base.
“We were, and still are, on a tremendous growth trajectory,” Santoro said. In 2012, the RVNA had 55 staff members, a figure that grew to 120 in 2015 and now stands at some 280 full- and part-time nurses, therapists and home health aides, she said. Last year the group saw 1,500 patients at the Ridgefield office and made roughly 48,000 in-home visits, figures that Santoro said are easily more than twice those of five years ago.
She attributed those increases to a number of reasons, among them, an aging population’s growing need for its services, the increased prevalence of acute and chronic disease in the general population and the growing desire of people to age in their own homes.
Santoro said the changing health care landscape, reshaped in part by the Affordable Care Act, has played a major role. The ACA “has directed health care providers to strive for the ‘Triple Aim’: improve patient experience, improve quality and lower costs,” she said.
“A significant cost savings we’re focusing on is reducing costly and oftentimes unnecessary trips to the emergency room. Through coordinated, seamless transitions from the hospital setting to home and back to one’s life, RVNA is having great impact on helping people recuperate, recover and manage multiple conditions while avoiding readmissions to the hospital. We’re accomplishing this through high-tech care, patient education and preventive services in one’s home, in the community and now in our new Center for Exceptional Care.”
“It was pretty obvious that we needed more space,” Santoro said. “And we’ve been able to expand in five areas,” including disease prevention, nutrition education and counseling, physical therapy, caregiver support and the completion of a competency lab skills training room.
Santoro said the rehab center combines three specialties in an outpatient setting: physical therapy, occupational therapy and speech therapy.
Other therapeutic specialties include kinesio taping to stabilize muscles and joints to encourage the natural healing process; vestibular rehabilitation to improve balance for patients suffering from dizziness, vertigo, head trauma or Meniere’s disease; and massage and Reiki therapy to improve circulation, reduce tension and realign muscles.
The RVNA’s nutrition program includes a teaching kitchen and offers group or one-on-one classes to people of all ages. In addition to instruction on best nutritional practices in managing weight, cardiac and other issues arising from high cholesterol, the program also caters to college students learning how to make meals on their own and to people looking to cook just for themselves.
“I think we’re unique, certainly in this part of Connecticut,” Santoro said. “We’re very hands-on and work closely with our patients’ doctors to develop very customized and specialized treatment, whether it’s here or in the patient’s home.”
“A lot of our clients continue to come in after they’ve seen improvements on the health care side or once they’ve gotten to a point where they can travel by car or even drive themselves, to take advantage of what we offer here,” she said. “They stay in the RVNA network, and we’re happy to have them.”