Editorial: A hospital to celebrate

Editorial: A hospital to celebrate

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Sunday, Islanders will visit the new Martha’s Vineyard Community Hospital, at the invitation of the trustees, to see what years of planning and broad generosity from seasonal and year-round residents has wrought.

Next door to the new Island health center, the old, exhausted wood frame carcass of the 36-year-old hospital, built in 1974, awaits remodeling and repurposing. The old hospital was built with federal Housing and Urban Development funds. It cost a fraction of the $42 million that the new, state-of-the-art Vineyard health center cost, and it’s had a very difficult life. Its years of financial struggle, its inefficient design, its inability to smoothly adjust to growing medical demands – all show on its worn façade.

Islanders will remember that 15 years ago, both the old hospital and the new Windemere were bankrupt. The outlook was justifiably bleak. After all, small rural hospitals, in their death throes, were familiar throughout Massachusetts and around the country.

What changed to create the strengthened health care foundation we will celebrate Sunday? It was not one thing, of course.

It was smart, tough, disciplined leadership from a new breed of trustees and their professional managers. It was the fortuitous alliance with Massachusetts General Hospital and its Partners HealthCare ownership. It was Medicare’s declaration of the Vineyard hospital as a critical access facility. And, it was the dedicated, astonishing fundraising leadership of hospital trustees and community members.

Sunday, Islanders will get a first look at what they and their neighbors have joined in building. Here’s hoping the new Martha’s Vineyard Community Hospital outlives and outshines its predecessor and that its constituents realize the full measure of it shining potential.

Kris Chvatal in Oak Bluffs

Over decades, government in Oak Bluffs has improved. The diversity allowed by the five-man board of selectmen, the quality upgrade and stability in the town’s professional management, and of course the general prosperity of the last 20 years have helped enormously. Oak Bluffs is better managed today than at many times during the past 40 years.

But Oak Bluffs faces enormous, destructive issues, as economic conditions drain private and public funds from the town treasury, while annual operating and capital costs grow relentlessly. Fresh thinking and new approaches to the dilemmas these deteriorating conditions present must be found. Old practices and business as usual will not do. Oak Bluffs voters and taxpayers will benefit by electing Kris Chvatal selectman. Mr. Chvatal brings a budget-minded, business-minded approach to the job. His perspective is fresh, his experience different from the four colleagues he will join. He will add vital energy to the struggle with old and stubborn problems.

Whenever a vacancy occurs at the top of the town leadership ladder — and it is not often, given the tendency of incumbents to hang on — voters must ask how new, thoughtful perspectives may be brought to bear on nagging issues. In Oak Bluffs, financial pressure has grown enormously. The response from the selectmen and the finance committee has been well intended but insufficient. Paying the bills with Proposition 2.5 overrides, with their consequences for tax rates and with falling property values in the offing, is not a solution. Adding new thinking to the chief executive office, which the selectmen occupy, will help Oak Bluffs master the financial chaos.

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