Windemere Chief Is Being Replaced

By JULIA WELLS

Leaders at the Martha's Vineyard Hospital confirmed yesterday that the administrator for the Windemere Nursing Home and Rehabilitation Center will resign his post.

Philip Hickey, currently away on vacation, will remain in place as administrator at the Island's only nursing home until early next week.

Mr. Hickey took the helm at Windemere 18 months ago. He has a long background in nursing home administration.

"This is by mutual agreement and he is leaving for personal reasons," said hospital chief executive officer Tim Walsh.

Mr. Walsh said he expects to replace Mr. Hickey with an interim administrator and then search for a permanent replacement.

The departure of Mr. Hickey marks one more dip in the road for Windemere, which has been plagued by stubborn pecuniary and staffing problems since it opened nearly ten years ago.

Among other things the nursing home has seen a high turnover in administrators, and few have lasted longer than a year or two.

"I can't speak to everything in the past, but it's a tough place in terms of trying to make it work, it's a tough equation," Mr. Walsh admitted.

Windemere is an affiliate of the hospital. Last spring hospital trustees voted to terminate the Windemere board of trustees and replace it with the hospital board.

The move was aimed at containing an escalating financial crisis that threatened the stability of the hospital as well.

At the time hospital board chairman John Ferguson was blunt in his assessment.

"The nursing home is bleeding us. No matter how you want to look at it, we own it and we just couldn't do this anymore. We didn't have the control over it that we needed," Mr. Ferguson said, explaining the need to eliminate the board of trustees.

The change meant that Mr. Hickey reported directly to Mr. Walsh .

In recent months Mr. Walsh, who has a strong background in finance and is the former chief financial officer at the hospital, has worked to stem the operating losses at Windemere.

There may be some results - unaudited year-end financial information is expected to be released for Windemere in the next week or two.

"I think it can work. I think part of what I am trying to do is get a little closer so we can share resources as best we can - which they haven't done that well," Mr. Walsh said yesterday. "We share dietary services and that's it. We're working now on a few different fronts to find economies of scale that we can share together," he added.

The patient census at Windemere is down - Mr. Walsh said the census this week stands at 65. The nursing home has 81 beds. Ordinarily the census hovers at around 72.

"I think it's an aberration - the nursing home business goes through cycles like that," Mr. Walsh said.

"We're really trying and I think financially we'll get it stabilized. But even when you say you've got it fixed, it's only fixed for that year. Because in the nursing home business the regulations change all the time," he said.

Meanwhile, the hospital CEO said the immediate task at hand is to secure a new administrator for Windemere.

"We're working on finding an interim solution," Mr. Walsh said.