Unfortunate Move

Editors, Vineyard Gazette:

The terrible news that the Visiting Nurse Service is closing is causing distress in the minds and hearts of many Vineyard residents who have come to rely on the services provided by this agency.

Particularly troubling is the loss of a uniquely dedicated team of nurses who have demonstrated a willingness time and time again to go above and beyond the call of duty in serving and advocating for their patients and the families of their patients.

I’ve worked in private-duty home care as a patient care coordinator and a direct care provider since moving to the Vineyard almost seven years ago. I’ve worked closely with several VNS nurses. The consistent high quality of care, dependability and accessibility of these nurses is unsurpassed in my experience.

In addition to their medical expertise, these individuals bring a tremendous amount of heart to their work. Their warm style of community nursing is difficult to find anywhere in this modern day. Is this their just reward for years, perhaps decades of service?

On the Vineyard we have limited choices in many areas, perhaps most importantly in the area of health care. It is difficult to understand why the board of Martha’s Vineyard Community Services would make a decision to deprive Vineyard residents of a choice in nursing care. This decision directly and personally impacts the lives and health of our most frail, elderly, and chronically ill neighbors and minimizes the importance of continuity in their care.

The decision to close the Visiting Nurse Service in the interest of long-term strategic planning is unfortunate for those people who work for the service, unfortunate for the patients who will lose their long-term (and loved) nursing team, and unfortunate for the Island community as a whole.

Eileen Murphy

Vineyard Haven

Shameful Decision

Editors, Vineyard Gazette:

In a secret meeting held last week, the so-called leadership of our well-funded community services organization voted to eliminate the Visiting Nurse Service, a life-giving and life-affirming group of dedicated nurses, home-care-providers and thoughtful administrators.

Shame on those board members of Community Services, who have been entrusted with extensive resources provided by all of us, the wealthy and not so, who believed that you had our best health and emotional interest well in hand.

What has made the nursing service such an integral part of our health-care community?

The close connection with our community hospital is but one facet. Test results, referrals, and close physician contact have made the home care almost as good as being in the hospital with your personal doctor at your bedside.

The relationships in which the nursing service has thrived include prestigious Boston area hospitals, including Massachusetts General Hospital, and the Partners collaborative, which include the finest facilities in the United States. These relationships ensure a seamless transition to the Vineyard to and from distant hospitals.

Can other groups provide such professional care? Our choices are now extremely limited. The weak and flustering excuse offered by the Community Services board is “to reduce confusion.”

Are the residents of the Vineyard unable to distinguish quality health care, kind and caring nurses and aides for themselves?

It would appear George Orwell was right, after all.

I have personally seen the life-extending and emotionally uplifting capabilities of these fine people who make up the Visiting Nurse Service. Those capabilities have included everything from administering chemotherapy, to helping a family weather emotional pain, to looking to the future in a healthy physical and emotional state. There is no “confusion” here.

I urge all those who have experienced the superb service provided by the Visiting Nurse Service, and those who know the wonderful people who are involved within, to not stand by and let unfortunate decisions made by an apparently unprofessional, unthoughtful, ill-prepared board of directors to deprive our community of such a valuable asset.

Art Buchwald must be rolling over in his grave.

Robert W. Holt

West Tisbury

Reconsider Shutdown

Editors, Vineyard Gazette:

A copy of this letter has been sent to the executive director of Martha Vineyard Community Services:

Dear Ms. Burgess,

I am compelled to write you this letter to express my disappointment on behalf of myself and many other senior citizens who may fail to let you know how they feel as well.

I have just learned of the distressing, sad news that the board of directors at Community Services voted to cease providing nursing services to senior citizens of the Vineyard. I am 77 years old and my husband is 74. I am a three-year pancreatic cancer survivor. Among other side effects, my illness has caused me to lose 110 pounds. I hold a small job with the school in order to help make ends meet. My husband has lost one complete lung due to his cancer and is on oxygen 24 hours a day. He suffers from heart disease and coronary obstructive pulmonary disease, which brings him much difficulty breathing. He also is unable to walk and has lost a lot of weight due to his sickness. He needs constant care and I have appreciated having the needed help that Community Services has provided our family. These services have been invaluable to us.

I was surprised and disturbed that Community Services did not inform the staff, the patients they serve or even ask the community for input.

I feel sure that if you reconsider and ask us to help we would all respond. To simply eliminate the nursing service without including the community is terribly sad and unfair. It puts citizens in a position to go without needed care and may result in loss of lives.

I am not asking you to reevaluate your decision, I am begging you on behalf of the many that cannot or will not for whatever reason inform you of the drastic mistake you are making.

As a citizen, taxpayer, past selectman for 13 years, member of board of health and almost all boards in my town, I implore you to reconsider and call for public input to preserve this much-needed service.

I look forward to your reconsideration on this matter.

Linda Marinelli

Oak Bluffs