Martha’s Vineyard Hospital seeks to take pulse of Island

The hospital is asking Islanders to complete a survey intended to identify future health needs and gauge the level of satisfaction with healthcare.

Martha's Vineyard surgeon Dr. Pieter Pil demonstrates laparoscopic surgical techniques to Robert Cornelius at the Martha's Vineyard Hospital health fair Saturday. — Photo by Heidi Wild Photography

Martha’s Vineyard Hospital has begun a three-week campaign to survey Island and seasonal residents about their views on Island living and health care. The goal, hospital officials said, is to use the findings for future planning.

The hospital has posted the “Health Needs Assessment and Quality of Life Survey” on its website (, where it is also available in Portuguese, circulated copies at Island libraries, and published a copy in this week’s issue of The Times [see pages 5-6]. It is also available at The survey effort wraps up February 15.

“This survey, in combination with conversations in the community, along with updated data from state and local sources, will be used to help identify health care needs and quality of life issues and collectively determine ways to address them,” the hospital said in a press release. “The hospital plans to repeat the survey every three years to gauge its progress in improving the delivery of health care and the quality of life on Martha’s Vineyard.”

The survey is anonymous “and both year-round and part-time residents are encouraged to participate,” the hospital said.

In a telephone conversation with The Times, hospital CEO Tim Walsh said the impetus for the survey is a state Department of Public Health requirement, “but we believe we should be trying to stay in close contact with the community to find out what its needs are.”

Mr. Walsh said the hospital has a variety of ways to receive community input. He cited its participation on the Dukes County Health Council, and the close relationship with Island residents who serve on the hospital board. The survey, he said, provides “another good tool.”

Once the survey results are received and organized, a committee will sit down and analyze the information, which will be incorporated into the planning process, he said.

Mr. Walsh, who announced that he will retire this spring, said that one of the realities often overlooked in discussions about Island health care needs is that Martha’s Vineyard Hospital is still a small, country facility that cannot provide the degrees of care people might expect in more metropolitan settings.

He said the link with Partners HealthCare has allowed the hospital to provide programs, for example oncology, that similarly sized hospitals that provide “bread and butter care” do not provide. “For a critical access hospital, we are pretty sophisticated,” Mr. Walsh said.

He said there are costs associated with all of the programs that some Islanders might like to see the hospital provide, often at a loss. For example, in-house drug treatment is hugely expensive. As an alternative, the hospital has provided a house on its property that Martha’s Vineyard Community Services will use as part of a drug intervention program.

Going forward, technology will play a big role. “We continue to look at tele-medicine,” Mr. Walsh said. “That’s the future for us.”

Ultimately, it comes down to making choices about how to use available resources, he said.

The survey is comprised of 34 questions. It includes questions about community concerns, household information, and quality of life.

For example, respondents are asked to choose the three most important factors that define a “healthy community” from a list of 21 items.

There is a similar question and list in which respondents are asked to identify health problems on the Vineyard.

The survey also seeks to identify concerns about housing, mental health, and gambling. The survey is anonymous.