"We need this hospital."
At the end of the Martha's Vineyard Commission's final public development of regional impact hearing on the Martha's Vineyard Hospital's plan for a new hospital, Tim Sweet, vice chairman of the hospital's trustees, offered closing remarks, transcribed by The Times and reproduced here:
I'm not sure where to start. It's been quite a humbling experience. I kind of feel like the kid who has been failing in high school all my career and came home finally with a report card with A-minuses, and the only reaction is, what's this A-minus? And as delighted as I was to present this whole plan to this commission, I am even more excited about finishing.
I really do believe, honestly and earnestly, that we have one of the best designed and one of the best thought out plans that has ever been brought before the commission. We have been working, as I said when we started, for four long years putting this together. No stone has been unturned in this process.
Tim Sweet. File Photo by Leslie Look
It's been a little disappointing once in a while to hear the suggestion that we've been cavalier in some of the decisions we made, and uncaring, and it's simply not true. Every single one of the decisions we came to was long talked, long fought, and quite frankly, collaborative. I want to bring up again that this process started internally and quickly went external. We worked in every single town, presenting it. We had forums in every town hall and open space we could find. We talked to anyone and everyone who would talk to us about it, and this is how we ended up with what we have today. This plan has changed a lot since we first started. And quite frankly, one of the main reasons it changed was the cost.
It is true when we first started and we were sitting around in the boardroom, it never occurred to us, also, that we would be building on the site where we exist. Everybody started from that same thought process: great, we can finally move. We know we're crowded, we know we have difficult parking here, but quickly reality set in. In all perfect worlds at all times, we would have gone out and found that perfect site in the middle of the Island that had the 20 acres and no neighbors and easy access and not a problem with helicopters. Putting that aside, the honest and simple reason that we are back building on the site we are on today is the simple reason that all of us in this room don't live in waterfront homes: we couldn't afford it.
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. The problem is large, and I think we have spent three long evenings explaining to you every bit of those problems. I think they were well justified and they were well presented, and they make a lot of sense. No one is trying to put anything over on anybody. I don't think we could be more straightforward and more honest about how we got to where we are. I don't know what else we can say.
But we need this hospital. This is the only way we think we can do it. And the site is not perfect, you're right. But we've gotten to the point with you guys and this site, to the degree that takes my breath away also. It isn't perfect. But it has served as our hospital for 80 years, faithfully, never closed once. There's never been an access problem.
And yet we act as if it's the most dangerous place in the world. It's not. The issue was, it's too small, and we agree. I wish it was bigger. I wish it was. And that's the reason we've extended parking slightly outside the health zone. We need that parking. That, quite frankly, is the only real minimal issue here. The rest of it we can work with. We can do .
We have, I think, put together a plan that's going to be a great medical facility. And when we're done, I think you're going to be very surprised how good it actually is. It looks good architecturally; I think they've done a phenomenal job.
And LEEDs - as far as energy conservation, please. There are three buildings in the United States of America who shot for what we're shooting for. There's certainly nothing on Martha's Vineyard better, aesthetically or commercially, and the next suggestion is can we do a little bit better. Okay, maybe we can and we'll try, I promise. But to suggest that we're not doing quite enough is crazy. This is going to be a terrific building.
And those of you who think it may be in the wrong spot, I'm sorry. But I think we've made a damn good case for why it's good and it works and it's continued to work, and it's worked for 80 years, and it will work for another 80.
But this is all the money we have. And I don't think there's any more out there. Frankly, it isn't even on taxpayers' backs. We've raised in donations every penny. And I don't think you're every going to see this moment again in the history of Martha's Vineyard. We can't let this pass. It's too important. It's way too important.
And I understand the concerns, and I appreciate many of them. Some of them, I think, were down to a level of detail that is inappropriate in this forum. This is about regional impact, and the region we're impacting is the Island as a whole. And we have to look at it as a whole, and this is too important to miss.
I hope that as you look over this plan, you'll fully understand why we got to where we are, more fully if you put yourself in our shoes, if you could. I think we're here today because Tim [Walsh] and his team have brought a fiscal discipline to this hospital that never existed before. Ten years ago we were broke. Five years ago we were in turmoil, both medically and financially - we were losing a million dollars a year.
Today, we're able to go before the community with our heads held high and say we've got a good hospital and we have a good plan. It is a different day. And I'm not sure if we don't get this hospital up soon, we're going to start going backwards. This is too important to miss.
And we can't keep talking about perfect. We can't get there. We're not going to be able to do anything that's perfect. And if there's anything I've seen here tonight, and the night before, and last week, it is that there seems to be a penchant here for making perfect the enemy of great. We've got a great plan. We don't have a perfect one. We never will. But I think the plan before you is going to be well serving the Island for many years to come, and I hope and pray that you will see the same thing and you will approve this plan as presented.
Now I'll go a little bit further, because it does make me sort of nervous. There's approvals, and there's Martha's Vineyard approvals. And Martha's Vineyard Commission approvals make me a little bit more nervous. I hope when you look at this, you'll look at it as a whole, and hopefully, with some mitigating factors I'm sure will happen, approve it as a whole.
I'd hate to see this project doomed by the death of a thousand conditions. There's a temptation when you look into this that everybody has to put their fingerprint on it and change something, and I hope that the team here today has told you, if nothing else, that every time you do that, it's ten thousand dollars, it's a hundred thousand, it's half a million.
We're tried to do this in a financially principled way. And I don't want to have to apologize over and over again that the decisions we made were financial ones. They were. And that we are not looking at the short-term; we are looking at the long. And the comment often is, if we're really looking long term, you'd move, you'd spend another 30 million. Frankly, if we did that, I'm not sure we'd have a hospital.
Because we don't have another 30 million. I don't think we can raise another 30 million. And the temptation is to borrow another 30 million - we'd be broke in three years. We can't do it. I'd love to do it, and we want to do it. And we tried every way we could.
But this is going to work, and it's a good site and it will work in every way. We've proven that in the worst scenario that can possibly happen we're still accessible, we're still in business, as we have been for 80 years, and now we'll be a little bit higher in a little bit better building, better built, more energy-efficient, stronger than the winds that are being presented to us. And I think you will be prouder of this vote, should you approve it, than any one you've ever made. I think it will make a bigger difference than you've ever done here. And with that, I'll close.