MVC sees possibilities; hospital will stand pat
A Martha's Vineyard Commission (MVC) subcommittee has concluded that there are two promising alternative sites on which to build a new Martha's Vineyard Hospital, and that it might be possible to relocate the hospital without moving Windemere Nursing and Rehabilitation, which is now physically connected to the hospital and shares hospital services.
The conclusions are contained in the subcommittee's 20-page draft report, dated Feb. 22, which was presented to hospital officials last week. The MVC report contains no financial analysis to support its conclusions.
This week, hospital officials continued to insist, as they have since the MVC raised the issue, that building on the current Beach Road site in Eastville is the only viable financial alternative, given the estimated cost of more than $70 million to build on a new site. "There is nothing in the report that we found that makes us change our initial conclusions that we need to stay on the site we are on," said Tim Sweet, hospital board member and chairman of the building committee.
The MVC created the subcommittee to look for alternatives following a presentation to the full commission by hospital officials in November that left some MVC members skeptical about the site decision. In a series of four meetings, the subcommittee identified two properties, culled from a list of 30, as the possible alternative locations it would like hospital officials to consider.
The draft Hospital Alternative Site Study - written by MVC executive director Mark London and MVC staff -contains a review of 13 properties. The report concludes that "there are some sites that could be feasible" and identified the 55-acre Goodale tree farm off Edgartown-Vineyard Haven Road worth approximately $3 million, and a 15-acre piece of school-owned land opposite the regional high school as "the most promising worth pursuing."
Regarding the Island's only nursing home, the report states, "Although Windemere clearly benefits from its proximity to the hospital, it might be possible to relocate the hospital without moving Windemere at the same time. It might be possible to work out a solution wherein it is moved later or it is integrated into the new use for the site."
That view is entirely the opposite of hospital officials who have said repeatedly that the narrow survival of Windemere, which only recently emerged from a sea of red ink, is linked to the sharing of services and resources with the hospital. "It is a conclusion that was drawn by someone within or all on that committee that we entirely disagree with," said Mr. Sweet, "as we have stated over and over and over again."
Mr. London was on vacation this week and could not be reached for comment. Paul Foley, an MVC planner, cautioned that the report is still very much in draft form and defended the lack of a financial framework. He said the committee was only asked to look for alternative sites.
Mr. Foley said it would be helpful to determine if there is a site that is so much better that it might be worth the extra time and money involved notwithstanding the view of hospital officials. "Maybe it is possible," said Mr. Foley, "Maybe there are other more creative ways you can go about it. Just because they say it can't be done, doesn't mean it can't be done."
Commissioner Ned Orleans of Vineyard Haven, subcommittee co-chairman, refused to comment on the financial underpinnings of the committee's report which he described as preliminary and subject to change. "It is a draft report," said Mr. Orleans. "There is nothing final about it. It explores a number of different ideas."
The MVC report was completed without an analysis of the hospital's detailed application to the state Public Health Council (PHC) known as a determination of need, a public document that has been available for almost one year.
Following a lengthy review process, in December the PHC, which has the authority to evaluate and approve the construction of new health-care facilities, approved plans for a new hospital that include the construction of a new building on the current hospital site.
Mr. Sweet, who is in the middle of a campaign to raise $42 million, said he and Tim Walsh, hospital chief executive officer, had been asked to review the MVC report and provide input. Both men attended the MVC committee meetings.
Mr. Sweet said that the committee put a lot of time and effort into the report but that, even discounting any concern about where the additional $20 million would come from, he saw no site that stood out. Cost has been of paramount importance from the beginning, he said.
Mr. Sweet said the hospital building project is being funded through the philanthropy of the community and not the sort of taxpayer initiative that would allow the community to bear the additional cost if it supported a move.
Hospital leaders went through much the same process as the MVC, according to Mr. Sweet, and came to one conclusion: that it was best to stay at the same site. "The economics play a major role and not a minor one in the decision we made and must continue to," he said. "We must come up with a plan that the Island and the hospital can afford. To do less than that is to doom this project, I believe."