Some comforting health care news


The best part of the news report this morning of the financial circumstances of the Martha’s Vineyard Hospital and its Windemere unit is chief executive Tim Walsh’s review of the hospital balance sheet.

On a dollars and cents basis, the hospital and the nursing and rehab center, leaving aside the wholesale uncertainty surrounding health care nationally, are more than stable. They are sturdy. The combination of a fully funded — by astounding generosity — brand-new hospital and the subsequent alignment of the Island medical center with PartnersHealth and Massachusetts General Hospital suggests that the future will not be financially fragile, at least not in the near term. The future of health care on-Island in the years to come, taking into account the variety of needs and the confused and tenuous array of vehicles for meeting those needs, has a less secure feel to it.

After describing the net gain for the past year in hospital finances and the significant loss posted by Windemere, Times managing editor Nelson Sigelman asked Mr. Walsh about the health of the combined operation.

“Very healthy,” Mr. Walsh said, pointing to the balance sheets of the two organizations. “It tells you what you are worth today.”

The hospital has assets of $34,566,691. “That is where the strength of the hospital is,” Mr. Walsh explained. “We have no debt, a brand-new hospital, and substantial cash right now.” There are liabilities of about $12 million. Even for struggling Windemere, assets of $9 milliion are three times liabilities.

The other comforting bit of news was a comment by Windemere chief Ken Chisholm, who described the financial risks his operation assumes in order to do its sawdust best by the community. They are risks that often pay off in steep losses. Why take those chances?

“We are an Island, and we try to take care of the Island,” he said.

When one considers the combined financial strength together with the felt commitment to its mission, both at Windemere and at the hospital, the conclusion is that this community can do something smart and comprehensive to serve the spectrum of health care needs across the Island’s growing and aging population. Developing the strategies and the alliances to meet those needs is job one. It is a job in which the hospital must play an important part, but it’s a job that demands the best efforts of Islanders and their leaders as well.

The news is that a mechanism that can guarantee such a broad spectrum assurance of a healthy future for Vineyarders is within reach.