Hospital looks to move quickly on building modification

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The Martha's Vineyard Commission heard the hospital’s plans to bring more primary care to the Island.

Updated August 4

The Martha’s Vineyard Hospital wants to modify sections of its campus to create additional space to meet the increased demand for primary-care doctors on the Island.

Sean Murphy, a lawyer representing the hospital, gave a presentation to the Martha’s Vineyard Commission (MVC) Thursday at the Oak Bluffs Fire Department about the desired modification to the long-term-care facility.

Windemere, the hospital’s long-term-care facility, is split into four units, units 1 and 2 on the first level and units 3 and 4 on the second level. Unit 1 was closed in 2001 due to a lack of staffing.

The hospital is requesting to move its primary-care offices into unit 1, and to move the business services such as human resources, accounting, and billing into the currently vacant unit 2, formerly known as Wildflower Court. The 61-bed facility in units 3 and 4, along with its common areas, will remain.

“We’re going to talk about a modification to the DRI [development of regional impact] so that we can use vacant space at Windemere, but more importantly … we’re really talking about the health care needs of the Island,” Hospital CEO Denise Schepici said to the Martha’s Vineyard Commission. “When I first got here, the No. 1 cry in healthcare was primary care.”

In 2015, the hospital put together a recovery plan asking for rate relief from MassHealth to tackle financial issues which, hospital CFO Ed Olivier described, was like “trying to get blood out of a turnip.”

“People are not choosing to come to Windemere. They come when they have no other options. That’s the unfortunate reality,” Olivier said.

“Long-term care was neither desirable or sustainable in the current model,” Schepici said.

Without government support, the hospital is looking toward modern forms of long-term care such as Green House Homes, long-term care homes that improve elderly satisfaction through individualized care, innovative design, and workforce housing for employees.

Last week, Healthy Aging Martha’s Vineyard chair Paddy Moore and Martha’s Vineyard Donors Collaborative executive director Peter Temple presented plans for Green House Homes on the Island to the MVC.

One of the commission’s main concerns with the Green House Homes was where they would be built. Temple’s presentation last week said the homes could only be built if land was donated.

On July 27, Schepici said, the hospital’s board of trustees voted for hospital management to enter into a letter of intent to develop a business plan and feasibility study to develop Green House Homes on the Island. “We’re very, very excited,” Schepici said.

Schepici said the hospital owns seven acres of land in Vineyard Haven, behind SBS, the Grain Store. The land is in “title hell right now,” according to Schepici, but the hospital says it is an asset that it owns and is willing to donate to Green House Homes.

The hospital is working with Renee Lohman, CEO of Navigator, a company that builds Green House Homes. While the hospital is looking toward more modern forms of long-term care, Windemere will remain open, and will not close until a new long-term-care facility such as a Green House Home is built, Schepici said.
The hospital also wants to create 18 additional parking spaces for the increased amount of primary-care doctors, support staff, and patients. Murphy said parking is “always an issue” at hospitals, but isn’t a big problem at this point.

Schepici concluded her presentation on a note of urgency, saying she has new primary care doctors arriving in September. “We’ve got to build facilities that will attract great physicians to our Island,” Schepici said.

After the presentation, the commission held a quick public hearing that had no public comment. The modification proposal now goes to the land use planning committee (LUPC) for analysis on August 13. Deliberation by the commission is scheduled for August 23.