20200701_bta_CVMC

Lisa Bovat, from the Central Vermont Medical Center, and Mike Wheeler, from Vermont Security, have their thermal images displayed Tuesday on a monitor as they walk through an automatic temperature screening device at the employee entrance to the hospital in Berlin.

BERLIN — Central Vermont Medical Center now has temperature-checking equipment that has helped free up staff and mitigate long lines for screening those looking to enter the hospital due to the novel coronavirus pandemic.

The hospital in Berlin has been using a system where a thermal camera reads someone’s temperature as they enter the building. The hospital has one such system set up at the main entrance, which was brought online last week and another set up at the employee entrance so employees can be screened which has been in use for about a month. CVMC held a news event Tuesday to talk about the system.

Due to the virus that causes COVID-19, hospitals have been taking the temperature of anyone entering the building, as well as asking about any other symptoms they may have. If someone visiting or working at the hospital shows symptoms of the virus, they are immediately sent away to help stop the spread of the virus. A patient that shows up with symptoms is isolated and treated.

Those temperature checks for the public prior to last week had to be done using an oral thermometer.

Robert Patterson, the hospital’s vice president of human resources and clinical operations, said the new system has helped get patients, visitors and staff into building quicker. Patterson said the hospital invested about $40,000 into the system.

“It’s a much better experience for everyone,” he said.

The screening stations used to see up to five or six staff members checking people entering the building. Now he said the hospital only needs two, one to ask questions about symptoms and the other to monitor the screen which gives the temperature readings. Or at slow times only one staff person can do both. He said this has freed up those other staff members who can get back to helping patients because hospitals are starting to offer more procedures due to the state being in good shape for the pandemic.

He didn’t have any firm numbers, but Patterson said there have been instances already where someone showed up to the hospital and didn’t know they had a fever. He said the hospital flags anyone who has a temperature of 99.5 degrees Fahrenheit and up.

Patterson said the camera system is accurate within 0.27 degrees.

A spokesperson for the hospital wasn’t certain, but he hadn’t heard of any other hospital in the state using such technology to check temperatures.

Jesse Harper is the founder of Vermont Security, a security equipment company based in Montpelier which installed the systems. Harper said this kind of technology has been in use for a while in Asia due to the epidemics it has faced over the past several years.

But it’s just starting to make its way to the United States.

“There was no temperature screening happening two months ago in the United States. Zero. It wasn’t a product that existed with a market and now it’s a huge market,” he said.

Harper said his company is in talks with several school districts about installing thermal cameras in schools. He said these cameras also can be used to screen employees at manufacturing facilities or people at retail businesses or restaurants.

Both Harper and Patterson see this kind of technology sticking around. Not only because a vaccine for the virus is said to be months away, but it will still have use after that because of its accuracy and ease of use.

eric.blaisdell @timesargus.com

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