The Block Island Times
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Editorial: Go use the Med Ctr!

Jul 30, 2012

There’s an axiom that people on this island know well: Use it or lose it. If we like a business, from a restaurant to a bookstore, we have to go support it, or risk it succumbing to a difficult, hyper-seasonal business environment.

Could there be an institution that’s more important to the island, and its many visitors, than the Medical Center? It labors under the same difficult conditions as other island businesses. Yes, its $1.4 million endowment can safely plug budget deficits of up to $70,000, says its investment committee chair. But when you think that patient revenue covers only about half of its expenses and that health care costs are always rising, it is clear that cash flow, at the least, must present problems.

Some 150 people overflowed from the Town Council’s chambers this week to protest the abrupt and ill-timed jettisoning of a well-liked man and effective fundraiser from the center. It was one of the most contentious meetings in years, and there are no signs of the outrage abating. Stepping back from the furor, two thoughts occur. One is that people here really care about the Medical Center. The other is that we are all incredibly lucky to have such great medical staff to see, just a quick drive up High Street.

It’s time to put that second thought into practice — not least because leaked emails suggest that, under the center’s current leadership, the doctor’s job may be on the line.

That leadership, though, is bound for change. The town’s website indicates that eight of the Medical Center board’s 11 positions need to be filled over the next nine months. Change may be no bad thing; the current leadership is, at the least, tone deaf, as its decision to bring a lawyer to this week’s meeting shows. At the worst, the board may not be following open meeting law, something this newspaper has filed a document request to examine.

Whoever applies to serve on the BIHS board needs to make a big commitment, as did the board members now serving; there are tough issues surrounding the center. Its current leadership has struggled and done what it thinks is right. Whatever we think of recent events, the board, and the staff at the center, need our help. It’s help we can give by simply using what we already have.

From physicals to stitches, antibiotics to referrals, we can get anything we could get at a good family practice here, and more besides. What GP has dentists come to its office, or deals with accident victims right alongside people stricken by disease?

Yet only half of year-round residents use the center for primary care, according to a consultant’s report from last fall. There are reasons for that — people stick with well-loved doctors they saw before they moved here, welcome the impetus for a trip off island, or don’t like the idea of bumping into health providers on the street — but it’s time we all examined them. We need to be able to turn to the center in an emergency. If that means turning to it when it’s not an emergency, that’s an easy choice to make.

We’re all guilty of taking things for granted at times. When it comes to the Medical Center, let’s correct that. While we’re waiting to see what the board does next, we can do something right now to support the center as a whole. We have access to fine medical staff. They deserve and need our solidarity. Go visit them.

This editorial contains content updated on Aug. 3, 2011.

Comments (1)
Posted by: Adam Dydak | Aug 01, 2012 11:57

Waiting for Thundermist or any mainland entity to solve the Health Service's problems is exactly like waiting for Godot.  (He's not coming.)  Either we solve our own problems or they are going to remain unsolved.  And there's no one on this island who believes the current advisory board at BIHS has got what it takes to solve anything now.  The onus is on them to prove they can.

Have other people out here not noticed, that when a board member gets his or her spouse to play along in the same organization, all sorts of things go wrong?  It hasn't happened only with BIHS.  Sharing beds is no reason for sharing advisory boards.  I don't believe for a minute these two particular couples are keeping the board out of their bedrooms, or vice versa.

So, where do you think we should hold the next public meeting?


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