Capping a summer of tense community relations and damaged confidence in the leadership at the Martha’s Vineyard Hospital, the interim president and chief executive officer pledged this week to do better by the Island.

“We’ve done a lot of listening this summer,” Timothy Walsh wrote in an open letter that appears in this week's edition of the Gazette.. “We’ve heard calls for greater transparency, accountability, responsiveness and communication.” Mr. Walsh came out of retirement to retake the helm at the hospital amid a swirl of controversy surrounding the sudden ouster of CEO Joseph Woodin in early June after just 13 months on the job.

The firing was led by longtime hospital president Timothy Sweet and vice president Edward Miller, who have stayed out of sight all summer despite repeated calls for public meetings, including by an ad hoc citizen group formed following the firing of Mr. Woodin.

An online petition that among other things calls for a change in leadership had gathered nearly 500 signatures as of this week.

In his letter, Mr. Walsh said a search is underway for a new CEO, using the Hingham executive search firm PhillipsDiPisa, and that consultants at Orlikoff & Associates Inc. have been retained to review board governance. He also outlined a strategic planning initiative led by Stroudwater Associates aimed at helping the hospital steer into the future. “The strategic plan . . . will be the hospital’s roadmap for improving the health of our community,” Mr. Walsh wrote.

Stroudwater is not new to the hospital and in fact was hired for a strategic planning initiative more than 15 years ago. A report from a consultant at the time outlined a troubling picture of mistrust and poor relationships inside and outside the hospital. The report was kept under wraps by the hospital board for nearly a year before it was made public.

As Mr. Walsh’s letter circulated this week, calls for a public meeting were renewed.

“Every Islander wants our hospital and Windemere to succeed. That’s what all of the commentary and discussion of these past few months has been about,” said Vineyard Haven resident Len Morris in an email to the Gazette Wednesday. Mr. Morris is a documentary filmmaker who signed the online petition and whose brother in law is a resident at Windemere. “At this point, the question is whether or not the current leadership at the hospital will listen to the community and work to restore the trust that has been lost,” he wrote, adding: “It’s time for the board of directors and Partners to meet the Vineyard public in a series of forums —  to answer our questions in person, hear what the community has to say and create a real blueprint for community involvement going forward.” 

Victor Capoccia, co-chairman of the ad hoc citizen group, declined comment on the Walsh letter until his group meets on Monday to discuss it.

But he confirmed that spokesmen for the group had met with a small contingent of hospital board members on August 25, and he forwarded to the Gazette a followup email to the board from the group. It said in part: “We see

ourselves as an ad-hoc group that has come together to assist hospital management and board build community confidence by achieving greater transparency, accountability, responsiveness and communication.” The latter phrase appears word for word in Mr. Walsh’s letter.

Speaking to the Gazette by telephone last week, Mr. Walsh talked at length about the strategic planning initiative and the complicated and daunting changes that hospitals are grappling with around the country. Many are aimed at improving the quality of affordable health care for all under the 2010 Affordable Care Act.

“The best way I can describe it, they have designated these accountable care organizations they expect will be all around the country,” he said, adding: “The big thing for us is to become a patient-centered medical home for primary care — it’s a goal of the Partners system to have all primary care offices in their system become this  — it is on a fast track.”

The Vineyard hospital has been owned by Partners Healthcare since 2010, with Massachusetts General Hospital as its parent company.

Meanwhile, the latest fallout at the hospital comes over the recent firing of Ken Ivory, a longtime employee who was head mechanic. Mr. Ivory, a known supporter of Mr. Woodin, was one of a number of people who spoke at a community potluck gathering held for Mr. Woodin earlier in the summer. He was fired in August after 43 years on the job.

Mr. Walsh confirmed that Mr. Ivory was no longer working at the hospital but said he could not comment further.

On the advice of a union representative, Mr. Ivory also declined comment through his wife this week.

In other hospital news, Mr. Walsh confirmed that Wildflower Court, the residential unit at Windemere, the Island’s only nursing home situated on the hospital campus, is due to close any day. The closure was initiated by Mr. Woodin last spring, due to low residency and unsustainable financial losses. “We are down to one resident who is moving off the Island,” Mr. Walsh said. “When that patient moves we will have the unit effectively closed.” he said. The remaining units at Windemere, where residents require skilled nursing care, are full, Mr. Walsh said.

Future plans for Wildflower Court, which includes 13 private rooms with bathrooms, are still unclear, but Mr. Walsh said there has been some discussion about using the space to house traveling nurses. He said the hospital had received a letter from the Martha’s Vineyard Commission this summer noting that any change of use at the nursing home would require a return to the commission for public review.

“And we will comply with that,” Mr. Walsh said.