A proposed Edgartown skilled nursing home wants to reinvent elder care and tackle multiple needs on Martha’s Vineyard.
Last Tuesday, the Navigator Homes of Martha’s Vineyard project received the town Planning Board’s approval.
The project, which focuses on socialization and independence, will provide care for seniors and workforce housing for employees of Navigator Homes and Martha’s Vineyard Hospital.
“We hope this ends up becoming a model to take care of our seniors who so dearly deserve good healthcare in their aging years,” said David McDonough, President and CEO of Navigator Homes.
Martha’s Vineyard Hospital, a member of Mass General Brigham and an affiliate of Massachusetts General Hospital, purchased 27 acres at 490 Edgartown-Vineyard Haven Road for the project.
As the project progressed towards approval, residents took to public comment to sound off. Some criticized the location and size of the project, while others cited the benefits to on-island healthcare and more housing.
What will Martha’s Vineyard Navigator Homes look like?
The project will include 66 skilled nursing beds in five homes clustered around an outdoor garden and a mix of 48 workforce housing units in two apartment buildings, one townhouse, and four duplexes.
Following the Green House model of elder care, which is meant to provide an alternative to traditional nursing homes where multiple residents live in one room, each of the five buildings is self-contained with its own kitchen, dining common, living area, and outdoor spaces as well as 24/7 nursing care.
The approach centers social connectivity, said McDonough, which he called key to physical and mental health.
One home will have a focus on short-term care, while the other four will focus on long-term care.
“If you are to have a homelike environment, you need to have staff which has continuity of care,” said McDonough. “You don’t want to have staff turning over, you want people who are family-like day in and day out.”
Rents will be subsidized and 85% of the housing will target staff earning less than 120% of the area median income. Sixty-five percent of staff fall into that category, according to a presentation by Martha’s Vineyard Hospital posted to the Planning Board’s website.
Housing project comes as staffing challenges mount, with more than 200 open jobs.
Both Martha’s Vineyard Hospital and Windemere Nursing & Rehabilitation Facility, the 61-bed skilled nursing facility in Oak Bluffs the Navigator Homes skilled nursing facility would replace, have 219 open jobs.
Some of those positions are filled by travel staff, according to the information Martha’s Vineyard Hospital presented to the Planning Board, because the workers have jobs off-island where it’s less expensive to live. That type of staffing means it’s impossible for the hospital and nursing home to compete for their full-time employment.
Among the positions, 70 are for nurses critical to the operation of the hospital and 70% of the nursing home staff are travel staff, Denise Schepici, the president of Martha’s Vineyard Hospital, said.
Without the project replacing Windemere, island elders would have to go off-island to receive care, said McDonough.
“If you have an 85-year-old grandfather or grandmother with a broken hip and they’ve lived on the island for their entire life, but they’re now an 85-year-old in a hospital setting with no friends, no family, no community. It’s extremely unhealthy,” said McDonough.
Next steps for the project
Both the Martha’s Vineyard Commission and the town Board of Health have also supported the plan.
Next steps include finishing construction pricing, hiring a general contractor, and securing a building permit from Edgartown.
The state Department of Public Health will also hold a Public Health Council hearing that McDonough said he hopes will be scheduled for April 19. The council will examine the financial capability of the project, which has received $44.5 million in U.S. Department of Agriculture funding.
The project also has approval for an on-site septic system from the Board of Health and the Martha’s Vineyard Commission. Recently, the town Wastewater Commission suggested the team examine whether the development can be hooked up to town sewer.
McDonough said “we would be delighted to do so,” if the town sewer system has adequate capacity and if the town can get approval from the state Department of Environmental Protection to authorize the move.
The Planning Board has put forth several conditions on the project, including hours of operation during construction, requiring generators on-site, finalizing the landscaping plan, and continuing to monitor traffic conditions.
Construction could begin in August, with the development ready to open by July 2025.
Courtesy of The Cape Cod Times