Just past the entrance way of Windemere Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, Philip Hickey sits in a fishbowl.
In an office with more windows than walls, Mr. Hickey is on display for all passersby as he tries to make sense of his new role at the helm of Windemere. And only two days after filling the position of administrator - a post vacant since last August - he knows that the community waits for him to pull the long-term care facility out of the red, with a full-capacity staff in tow.
"The lacking in leadership - we can turn that around. And there's no reason this can't be a viable facility. The staff needs someone to support them. They have great pride in this facility," he says confidently.
This 16-year veteran of nursing home administration stepped fully into the job and a new life on the Vineyard this week. While the Windemere board officially offered Mr. Hickey the position in May, he waited for his two children, 16-year-old Heather and eighth-grader John-Philip, to finish the school year and for the family to secure a home on the Island before settling into the new position.
Both pieces of the puzzle came together this week. Mr. Hickey shook a lot of hands and shuffled between meetings at Windemere and the hospital Monday, Wednesday and Thursday. He and his wife, Susan - an emergency room nurse with 20 years experience - closed the sale on a Dodgers Hole home in Edgartown Tuesday and immediately began unpacking their Pennsylvania life.
When Mr. Hickey says the family relocated to the Island, he means three generations' worth. His wife's parents also abandoned Pennsylvania this spring to take up residence in Woodside Village II in order to follow Philip, Susan and the children to the Vineyard.
While Mrs. Hickey takes a break from her nursing career to establish the Hickey home on the Island, Mr. Hickey knows he must get busy addressing the imperative needs of the eight-year-old facility that climbed out of bankruptcy only two years ago. That, of course, involves watching the bottom line closely, a task Mr. Hickey managed effectively at his most recent job where he pulled a large continuing care community out of financial trouble.
And at Windemere, Mr. Hickey predicts a more secure financial future.
"We actually had a $150 surplus last month," Mr. Hickey says, projecting a total $80,000 deficit by year's end. That figure is half of the Windemere loss incurred in just the first six months of the last fiscal year. "Hopefully we can turn that around with the physical therapy department."
The new administrator will monitor closely both the rehabilitation and physical therapy departments as well as the number of patients filling the 81 beds at Windemere.
"I hope to make those departments even desirable for folks off-Island. What better place to come and rehabilitate than Martha's Vineyard?" he says.
Mr. Hickey chose a timely exit from his eight-year post as chief executive officer and director of Cumberland Crossing Retirement Community in Carlisle, Pa. When the continuing care community - with 59 skilled care beds, 35 personal care spots and 115 independent cottages - switched hands to a for-profit entity, Mr. Hickey knew that as chief executive officer, he probably would not be part of the sale package.
In addition to keeping that long-term care facility in strong financial shape, Mr. Hickey also learned to meet the challenges of recruiting and retaining nursing staff, problems that plague both Windemere and the hospital.
"It's one of the largest challenges for any health system. It's everywhere. Just because we're on the Island, it's no worse. At Cumberland Crossing, we had to retain a nursing staff while competing with 10 other medical facilities in a four-mile radius," he says, noting that management's care in hiring, contract enhancements and a strong report can all be used to curb the shortage.
"I want to support them and make sure they all have the right tools to do their job. I'm not a micromanager. I expect professionalism and will do everything I can to empower them," Mr. Hickey says.
Courted by Windemere's board since early this year, the new administrator admits he has not been shielded from the politics and financial woes confronting the Vineyard health system. He followed Island news from his home in Mt. Holly Springs, Pa. this past winter.
While Mr. Hickey understands his time away from the facility will be scarce until the Windemere center grows stronger, he hopes to spend some time around the Martha's Vineyard Oriental Lodge. This 32nd-degree Mason proudly wears his Masonic ring.
Meanwhile, Mr. Hickey plans to make friends with the 76 folks who now reside in Windemere. Walking through the halls Wednesday afternoon - halls that he admits could use some "spit and polish" - Mr. Hickey puts a few faces with the list of patient names in his office. The new administrator is the one extending his hand, but the exchanges are by no means one-sided.
Patient Esther Jacobs recommends a good general practitioner - her son Michael, of course.
"You don't have to go to him, but you'll be sorry if you don't," the proud mother tells Mr. Hickey.
A patient who rolls her walker down the hallway informs her new friend of her poor arm condition. Another patient introduces him to Chico - the yellow-fronted Amazon parrot who just turned 40. Mr. Hickey quickly turns to wish Chico a happy birthday.