What we need from the deal
In every negotiated business deal, deciding the winners and losers is difficult. Each side looks to get what it needs, and in the best deals, each side does. But, the only guaranteed outcome is change. And success for each party is only possible if each side clearly understands its obligations, its needs, its assets, and its liabilities.
The proposed link between Partners HealthCare and the Martha's Vineyard Hospital is, in some respects, a business deal like any other. One side is a powerful, respected, successful, well-financed organization with a demonstrated commitment to its health-care mission, and a track record of thoughtful and careful management of its constellation of affiliated organizations.
The other, the Martha's Vineyard Hospital, which we rather quaintly like to think of as "us," is the centerpiece of Island health care services for 16,000 year-round residents and perhaps another 85,000 who join us in the summer. Despite the astonishing generosity of hospital supporters who've raised $38 million to replace our current hospital, which dates to 1974 and beyond into the dim mists of long ago, and despite the diligent management of current hospital leaders who have remade the hospital into a financially stable institution, the Vineyard hospital's future as this Island's chief health services provider is today, as it has always been, cloudy. Bruised by an ever changing and unsuccessful national health care environment, controlled, but just barely, by the federal government and the private insurers, and facing an aging population in increasing need of medical care, being a small, rural, insular, seasonally challenged medical center will always be difficult.
So, there is no mystery why the Martha's Vineyard Hospital board has joined negotiations with Partners. The board recognizes the precarious position the Island hospital occupies, along with other similar institutions nationwide. It is conscientious about its responsibility to the Vineyard population, and it is cognizant of the financial and quality care opportunity that the Partners affiliation represents.
Will Islanders lose control of their health-care destiny if the Island hospital joins Partners? Hardly. We are not in control now. Our hospital is in fact a private, non-profit hospital that can do as it likes. We will neither lose nor gain substantial control by the proposed affiliation. We may gain two things that we, as health-care customers need. We may gain a measure of ongoing financial stability, making the delivery of quality health-care services here more likely to weather the stormy future for hospitals. And, we may improve significantly this hospital's ability to deliver high-quality medical care that is medically and technologically up to date. And, that's what we need out of this deal.
The Martha's Vineyard Hospital leaders put it this way: "It takes bricks and mortar to build a hospital, very expensive ones, but it takes even more than a brand-new facility to sustain excellence in medicine. Donors thus far have been very positive about an affiliation with a health-care system as highly regarded as Mass General and Partners. Most understand that as the delivery of the best possible medical care becomes more and more complex and demanding, it will be invaluable to have Partners who can offer proven, state-of-the-art expertise and reliable support."