MV Hospital board signs MGH deal
The Martha's Vineyard Hospital trustees, meeting Saturday, agreed unanimously to sign an affiliation agreement with Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH). The deal will open a new era for health care on the Island, and at its hospital, founded in 1929.
Pending approval by the state Department of Public Health, which will hold a Dec. 19 public hearing on the deal, the Island's not-for-profit, privately owned hospital will become one of a group of hospitals, health clinics, and physicians' organizations owned by Partners HealthCare System, a nonprofit founded in 1994 by MGH and Brigham and Women's Hospital, both in Boston.
The signing capped a week of major hospital developments. Two days prior to the board meeting, the Martha's Vineyard Commission (MVC) unanimously approved the hospital board's plans to build a new $42 million hospital on its current Eastville site.
The future, as described by hospital officials, is bright. If all goes according to plan, Vineyarders can expect to see a brand-new medical facility linked electronically and by medical protocols to Mass General, one of the world's renowned medical and teaching institutions.
Under the agreement, Partners appoints 20 percent of the hospital board. On Saturday, Partners appointed four new board members, all of whom have extensive resumes in health care. Two of the new board members are seasonal Island residents.
Dr. Andrew Louis Warshaw, a Chilmark seasonal resident, is chairman of the MGH Department of surgery, surgeon-in-chief, and a MGH hospital board trustee.
Ann L. Prestipino has an extensive background in public health and health care management. She is MGH senior vice president for Surgical and Anesthesia Services and Clinical Business Development.
Brent L. Henry, a graduate of Yale Law School and Oak Bluffs seasonal resident, is vice president and general counsel for Partners HealthCare System.
Dr. Peter Slavin, MGH president, is a professor of Health Care policy at Harvard Medical School in Boston.
Speaking by telephone Tuesday from his New Jersey office, M.V. Hospital chairman John Ferguson, a seasonal West Tisbury resident and president and chief executive officer of Hackensack University Medical Center in New Jersey, said that four years ago when he became chairman of a board in the midst of upheaval, there was considerable skepticism that the hospital could achieve its goals of rebuilding and improving the overall quality of care.
"I would say that the agreement with MGH and the going ahead with the building project form the combination of what we started to do four years ago," said Mr. Ferguson. "For Martha's Vineyard it is a total win. I don't see it as a loss of control, I just see it as a win for the quality of care."
Mr. Ferguson said that the agreement is an almost complete reversal of the situation when he became chairman and MGH was on the verge of severing its Island connections. The deal with MGH rests in part on timing, need, and complex federal reimbursement formulas.
The Partners organization also includes Faulkner Hospital, McLean Hospital, Newton-Wellesley Hospital, and Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital. That list is expected to soon include Nantucket Cottage Hospital.
The Nantucket and Vineyard hospitals are the state's only two critical access hospitals, a designation that negatively affects complex federal reimbursement formulas for all hospitals in Massachusetts, Partners hospitals foremost among them.
Under Partners' ownership, the Island hospitals must give up the critical care access designation. Partners, a $6 billion enterprise, is betting that the change will save it millions should the formula be changed.
MGH and Partners has agreed to contribute $5 million to the hospital fund-raising effort, enough for it to reach its goal of $42 million for its planned new medical facility.
At a recent public forum some Islanders questioned how the $5 million number was determined. In a letter to the editor published in the Dec. 7 issue of The Times, hospital board member Edward Miller of Chilmark explained that the $5 million cash payment is not a purchase payment to selling shareholders as there are no selling shareholders to pay, but rather a capital investment in the new hospital.
He wrote, "Also, it is not a one-time payment. We can fully expect additional investments in the future toward other worthy capital requirements.
No such union succeeds without a common goal and trust amongst the parties. Our due diligence has led us to believe that being a Partners partner will enhance the consistent delivery of the highest quality health care on our Island - and that is our mission."
In previous public statements, Dr. Slavin has sought to assure Islanders that Partners has grown strong because it "...recognizes that hospitals need to be different and distinct and have the kind of autonomy and flexibility necessary to preserve the special relationship with their communities."
At the time hospital leaders first announced the pending deal with Partners, hospital chief executive officer Tim Walsh described an arrangement he said would provide the Island hospital with access to state-of-the-art medical resources and provide patients with seamless medical care.
On Tuesday Mr. Walsh told The Times that there would be no immediate changes in the short term. Over the long term, Mr. Walsh anticipates integrating the hospital's record keeping with MGH's state-of-the-art electronic record keeping system.
"I think this is a home run for the community and health care on the Island," said Mr. Walsh.