Medical Center starts $7.5 million capital campaign

Thu, 08/08/2019 - 7:00pm
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The Board of the Block Island Medical Center has begun an ambitious $7.5 million capital campaign designed to strengthen and expand the healthcare services the facility currently provides.

The campaign quietly started about six months ago, and Campaign Chair Susan Stover said that about $1.5 million has already been pledged, with several gifts coming in at more than $100,000. Stover said the goal is to begin upgrades to the facility while the fundraising is going on, particularly in the area of trauma care. The Medical Center’s trauma center has an extremely limited capacity, two areas for patients separated by a curtain. The limited space makes caring for multiple patients needing urgent care problematic, especially during the summer when the island’s population balloons into the tens of thousands.

According to literature provided by Stover and Board of Trustees Chair Cindy Baute, the Medical Center has treated more than 1,600 patients since Memorial Day, with 434 of those patients needing some kind of urgent care.

The fundraising committee is reaching out to the entire Block Island community for support. Any donation of any size will help the Center reach its fundraising goal, they both said, while noting that having a medical facility that can provide primary and acute care services is the key to a healthy community and a healthy economy.

“The goal is keeping a community well so we can have longevity here,” said Baute.

“We, as a community, can’t wait for this,” said Stover.

Both Stover and Baute stressed that the monies they hope to raise during this campaign will not go toward operation costs of the facilities, such as utilities or payroll, but to the expansion of the physical plants and its services.

Baute, Stover, and the Board have been consulting with architects, including New Shoreham’s Facilities Manager Sam Bird, and the Board now knows “we have the room to expand on-site,” said Stover. The architects have done an internal and external review of the building, both Baute and Stover said.

The BIHS Capital Campaign has four goals, according to the information provided by Baute and Stover:

An upgraded and expanded trauma and acute care facility. “The Medical Center is the only source of medical care on the island; we must provide comprehensive emergency care since every case of injury or acute illness is treated at the Medical Center, and weather conditions can delay air transport to mainland hospitals.”

Stover and Baute pointed out that no one knows when they may be in need of urgent care, whether it’s an island guest or resident, and having to wait for that care should not be an option for anyone.

“Our current facility can accommodate only one critical injured or ill patient at a time, which is entirely inadequate,” the fundraising literature states.

Estimated cost for upgraded trauma and acute care facilities: $2.5 million.

Another goal is expanding primary and specialty care.

“The Medical Center’s enhanced reputation is driving the demand for a more efficient and upgraded facility for primary and specialty-care office visits, administrative office space, community and educational meeting space, and storage space.”

Estimated cost: $900,000.

Interns and medical residents are currently housed at the Thomas property, the small two-apartment building located across from the Block Island School. Some of the specialists that come to the island are put up in private homes. Given that the Thomas property is currently being considered as part of a proposed community housing project, Baute and Stover said the capital campaign is designed to purchase a property to make housing more attractive and secure.

“The Medical Center needs its own reliable housing to ensure our vital medical education program, which brings medical resident physicians and medical students to the island to support the care provided by our fulltime clinical staff, as well as to expand specialist care by housing visiting physicians,” according to the literature.

Estimated cost: $1.1 million.

The fourth goal, which Stover and Baute said would only be met when the other goals have been satisfied, is to fund the Medical Center’s endowment. The Medical Center is not self-sustaining. Patient fees do not meet operating costs, and the Center treats all patients regardless of their ability to pay.

“We must raise endowment funds to guarantee sustainable investment income to close the gap between the cost of providing care and actual compensation from insurance and patient billing,” the literature states.

“This is a real need,” said Stover.

Estimated goal for endowment sustainability: $3 million.

Stover said the conversation about starting a capital campaign began several years ago after Dr. Mark Clark, the facility’s Medical Director, came to the island. “He came in and saw it with fresh eyes,” said Baute.

“This is the number one asset in the community,” said Stover, referencing the fact that people cannot work, and students cannot learn, if they are sick. Baute and Stover also pointed out that many of the jobs on the island are physically demanding, such as fishing or construction, which often requires medical attention.

“If we want a functioning economy,” said Stover, “we have to stay healthy.”

“We should have the ability to provide medical care that is as excellent as it is anywhere else,” Stover added. “You never know when you’re going to need it. This is for all of us.”

The Medical Center is holding its annual fundraiser, a Taco Party, at the Block Island Maritime Institute, on Friday, Aug. 23. Monies raised there will go toward the Center’s operating costs. Stover and Baute said they will also be offering information about the Capital Campaign at that event.

Checks may be made out to Block Island Health Services, while referencing the Capital Campaign in the memo line, and mailed to Block Island Medical Center, Box 919, Block Island, R.I. 02807. Stover said they are accepting three- to five-year pledges.