Hospital Campaign Sees More Pledges

Capital Fundraising for New Building Inches Up from $20 to $25 Million; Trustees to Target More Donors

By JAMES KINSELLA

When seasonal Edgartown residents Robert and Sheila Hoerle were asked to donate money to help rebuild the Martha's Vineyard Hospital, they were happy to oblige.

They gave, Mr. Hoerle said, "basically because we'd been on the Island for about 25 years. We've depended on the hospital for emergency care a number of times for ourselves and our family members. They've provided excellent care." He continued:

"We believe the Vineyard should have a high-quality medical facility for year-round residents as well as for visitors. We think this is a very important campaign."

Olga Hirshhorn of Vineyard Haven gave to the campaign because, she said: "I believe in the fact that we desperately need a new hospital."

Ms. Hirshhorn, who structured her gift over five years, paid tribute to the hospital staff. "You have to have used the hospital to realize how good the doctors and the nurses are," she said.

The Hoerles and Ms. Hirshhorn now count themselves among about 100 donors who have pledged more than $25 million toward the $42 million capital campaign to rebuild the Island's only hospital site in Oak Bluffs.

Formally launched on July 1 with an announcement that $20 million in pledges had been collected, the campaign has no hard deadline, although hospital leaders say they want to start construction by the fall of 2006.

Warren Spector, co-chairman of the capital campaign, said on Wednesday this week that the effort to raise funds for the hospital is going well, with pledges now up around $25 million.

Mr. Spector said the early part of the campaign has focused on making contact with potential large donors. After Labor Day, he said, the campaign plans to expand its appeal to the broader, year-round Vineyard community, while continuing the outreach to large donors.

"We're hoping to get the broadest possible participation," said Mr. Spector, who is president and a chief operating officer at the investment firm of Bear Stearns, and a summer resident of Chilmark.

The new building plan calls for demolishing part of the 1929 section of the hospital, and rebuilding a state-of-the-art medical facility that will include a new emergency room, two operating rooms and dedicated spaces for radiology, laboratory, surgery, obstetrics, acute care and intensive care.

The project also calls for the construction of 19 patient rooms, all of them private, and renovation of the 1972 hospital wing for use as medical office space. Construction is planned so that all medical services will continue at the hospital without interruption.

Mr. Spector said the first months of the campaign, targeted at larger donors, has been extremely time consuming.

"In order to do it properly, we need to spend all the time necessary to answer all the questions," he said. "We've been having lots of one-on-one meetings, setting up meetings, having cocktail parties."

Part of the process, he said, is finding the time when possible donors are available to discuss the initiative and a potential gift. That time window might not open up for weeks or months, depending on what is happening in their lives.

A number of donors reached by the campaign have done serious due diligence on the hospital's proposal, sometimes with the help of professionals, Mr. Spector said.

"All of those donors have pledged financial support; not one has said it doesn't work" he said, adding:

"We have a lot more to do, we have a lot to follow up on, and we have lots and lots of people we haven't contacted yet. We don't think we've contacted even half the people we want to contact."

The campaign also is shifting into a wider appeal.

"I do agree we need to broaden our outreach," Mr. Spector said. "We're putting together new people to focus on year-round residents."

He said the campaign, as much as possible, plans to rely on direct personal contact before turning to mass mailings and phone banks.

At an informal public discussion last week, members of the Martha's Vineyard Commission questioned for the second time whether the hospital should rebuild at its present site or find a new location.

A number of commission members raised doubts about the basic proposal during the meeting last Thursday night with the hospital architects.

The hospital building will eventually require review by the commission as a development of regional impact (DRI).

Mr. Spector said he believes the commission's questions will not hinder fund-raising efforts. He said he also believes the hospital will in the end convince the commission that keeping the hospital in the same location is the right move.

"There are very good reasons to keep the hospital where it is," he said, pointing among other things to the much higher cost of building a new hospital elsewhere. He said hospital trustees have very carefully vetted the current plan.

"I have a great deal of respect for the Martha's Vineyard Commission, and I think they perform an important role on the Island," Mr. Spector also said. He said he expects that the commission will conduct a thorough review of the project.

"People will not be surprised that a lot of questions will be asked, and that stories will be written about those questions," Mr. Spector said. "I am confident that will not hinder our ability to get the project done."