VA gives Martha’s Vineyard Hospital new contract

The Providence VA Medical Center has signed a new contract with the Martha's Vineyard Hospital. — File photo by Ralph Stewart

The Providence VA Medical Center announced on Tuesday that it has awarded a contract to Martha’s Vineyard Hospital to provide basic medical services to eligible Island veterans.

For several years, a lapsed contract between the VA and Martha’s Vineyard Hospital (MVH) meant Island veterans with a VA health plan needed to receive pre-approval through a clinic manager in Hyannis in order to obtain medical treatment and prescriptions on Martha’s Vineyard.

Depending on their service-connected disability rating, many veterans had to travel to the Providence VA Medical Center (VAMC) or to the Hyannis Community-Based Outpatient Clinic (CBOC) for health care services.

The new contract will enhance care to eligible veterans on the Island to include basic lab work and diagnostic imaging on the Island without the need for pre-approval, according to a VA press release.

The new contract goes into effect on October 3.

“All of these services have been consolidated into one contract,” Vincent Ng, Providence VAMC director, said. “More importantly, this contract includes provisions to ensure better continuity of care as well as assurances that our veterans on the Island are receiving safe, high-quality care. It also includes criteria to ensure patient confidentiality.”

Timothy J. Walsh, President and CEO of Martha’s Vineyard Hospital, said he is pleased that a new contract is now in place. “We can now provide our veterans on the Island with the care they need without them having to go too far from home,” Mr. Walsh said. “It is an honor to be able to serve those who have served us.”

Dukes County Director of Veterans Services Jo Ann Murphy said the agreement has been a long time coming. “I have people almost every day calling me, wanting to know what’s going on,” she said in a telephone call Tuesday. “We really need it.”

Asked if the contract is an improvement over the last contract signed in 2000, Ms. Murphy said, “From what I’ve heard, I think it will be better than the last one. The last contract was too general. This one is very specific about what’s covered under primary care.”

Ms. Murphy said she is glad the VA group plans to meet with veterans on October 3 at the American Legion post in Vineyard Haven. “Just so they get an idea of what veterans have to go through, to get on and off the Island,” she said. “For the older guys, it’s really hard for somebody in their 80s and 90s to go off Island to go to a doctor’s appointment. It’s not like driving a half hour away to a hospital or clinic somewhere. It’s an all day affair.”

Ms. Murphy said it is her understanding that once the contract is signed, a doctor and nurse from the VA would come to the Vineyard to do physicals and intakes on all the vets who are registered. “One of biggest problems we had before was that information on the vets who saw doctors on Island didn’t get to the VA,” she said.

Veterans will still have to travel to the Providence VAMC or the Boston Health Care System for specialty care and services in most cases, the VA said.

“However, the Providence VAMC continues to expand its Telehealth capability at its three Community-Based Outpatient Clinics (CBOCs). As such, Veterans on the Island will be able to receive additional specialty care at any of the three CBOCs, consistent with this technology,” according to the press release.

The Providence VAMC signed a contract effective December 18, 2000, that allowed Martha’s Vineyard Hospital to provide a CBOC under the auspices of the VA. At that time, approximately 1,400 veterans lived on the Island. That number since dwindled to about 350, according to Ms. Murphy.

The contract lapsed sometime around 2004, which went unrecognized by the VA until 2008. Since then the Providence VAMC and MVH had been negotiating a new contract for veterans eligible for VA care.

For more information about the new contract or the Providence VA Medical Center, call Tom Antonaccio at 401-457-3369, or go to