Years of planning and fundraising, herds of expensive consultants, and hours of meetings, public and private, have led the Martha's Vineyard Hospital to decision time. That is, it is time for a decision by the Martha's Vineyard Commission on the hospital's $42 million plan to build a new, larger Island health-care center at its Beach Road address, to replace the obsolete 1974 structure, plus some even older remnants of the hospital's 80-year evolution.
This is certainly a plan with regional impact. Nearly every one of us has depended at one time or another upon the existing hospital, its physicians, its technicians, and its nurses. Those who've missed out will almost certainly have a chance in the future to depend on the care the new hospital will offer. That is, we hope there will be a new hospital and that it will be the one designed by the current leadership, despite the dispiritingly self-indulgent review of the project conducted by the MVC. Not that anyone should be surprised. The hospital is only the latest supplicant at the MVC's altar.
Elsewhere this morning, we reproduce the concluding remarks made by Tim Sweet, vice chairman of the hospital board, to the commission members, pleading for approval, for approval without an impossible list of crippling conditions, defending the hospital's decision making, its earnestness, the good sense of its position, and the accomplishments that have made this project possible. Mr. Sweet's tone, a combination of supplication and barely contained frustration, reflected the gantlet the hospital has had to run to get to this decisive moment.
The level to which the commission members, inexpert in all manner of hospital design, siting, and programmatic organization, indulge their each and every whimsy may be suggested by the questions they ask, reported by Times writer Janet Hefler. What is the ignition system on the generators and does it use primer oil and have an interrupter switch?, they want to know. What is the likely glare from the "highly reflective" roof? What is the sun shadow in the healing garden?
At the end of the last of the grillings, commission member Christina Brown of Edgartown explained to Mr. Sweet why the commissioners behave the way they do, confirming one's worst fears: "...we go back and forth from the ridiculous to the sublime," she said, "because we care so much and we have to sort it out, as you have had to over these four years."
For his part, Mr. Sweet, having in mind the MVC's repeated suggestion that the new hospital ought to be put elsewhere and hang the expense, put it this way, "I've been a little stunned how we have gone from not that long ago thinking bankruptcy, then losing tons of money, to when we suggest that something will cost anywhere between 10, 30 and 40 million dollars, all we get is a shrug. It takes my breath away. I think quite frankly, quite honestly, we've done close to the impossible. The hospital has been transformed financially and medically. We have raised $38 million on this little Island to build a new hospital. People said it was impossible. Those same people are now asking why can't we come up with $30 million more. But we can't. I'd love to. We want to. But we can't ... We need this hospital."