Martha’s Vineyard’s Windemere nursing home wins state approval for facelift

The Windemere front entrance is flanked by the new hospital to the right and the old hospital building, now a doctor's wing, on the left. — Photo by Nelson Sigelman

The Windemere Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, which provides nursing home care and physical rehabilitation for Island residents, will embark on a major physical rehabilitation of its own.

In February, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH) approved a determination of need (DON) that cleared the way for a $3.2 million project intended to correct the ravages of age and Island weather.

More importantly, Windemere administrator Ken Chisholm told The Times, DPH approval means that the nursing home built 18 years ago will qualify for reimbursement of capital expenses.

Mr. Chisholm said the project improvements would include new windows, building siding, and furnishings for resident’s rooms, all of which are badly in need of replacement. The cafeteria and recreation area will also get a makeover. He said work is expected to begin within the next several months.

Mr. Chisholm said Windemere provides a caring environment for Islanders who might otherwise be forced to relocate to the mainland, being separated from family and friends. One challenge is meeting the ever-changing need.

Currently, there are seven beds available. Sometimes, there is no space.

Mr. Chisholm said family connections most often dictate where a person in need of nursing home care chooses to live. He said it is painful when there is not an available bed for someone with close Island ties. “We put them on a wait list and try to get [them] in as soon as possible,” he said.

The facility includes a 21-bed dementia care unit, 40-bed skilled nursing and rehabilitation unit, and a 13-bed residential living wing.

DPH approval provides a bright spot amid much uncertainty over how changing regulations and cutbacks in reimbursements will affect the Island’s only nursing home.

The costs associated with operating a nursing home are daunting. In 2010, Windemere ended the year with a profit of approximately $10,000. Mr. Chisholm said although it is not a large amount of money, ending any year in the black is an accomplishment, and Windemere has managed to end the year with a profit for six of the last seven years.

“Which is an amazing thing given where we came from,” he said.

In 1994, its first year of operation, Windemere lost $1.8 million and in 1996 filed for court protection under chapter 7 of the federal bankruptcy code. Windemere emerged from bankruptcy two years later but continued to struggle financially. Under new leadership the nursing home ended 2004 with its first-ever profit.

Despite the cost pressures and labor shortages nursing homes face across Massachusetts and the country, Windemere has continually scored high marks for quality of resident care.

A Department of Public Health Quality of Care Survey completed in October 2010 ranked the Island nursing home better than 83 percent of nursing homes in the state.

In a recent federal survey tied to Medicare inspections and used to compare long-term care facilities across the state and country, Windemere achieved a top overall score of five out of five stars.

In May, the American College of Health Care Administrators will recognize Windemere at the organization’s 45th Annual Convocation and Exposition to be held in New Orleans.

Mr. Chisholm will receive the leadership recognition on behalf of Windemere.

For more information call 508-696-6465 or go to