Select Board Candidates Need To Get Up To Speed On Our Island Home

Frances Karttunen •

To the editor: Having just watched "Meet the Candidates/Meet the Articles," I am disappointed in all the candidates.

When the first question posed to them was about potential funding to build an “assisted living” facility, not one of the candidates corrected the question. Our Island Home (OIH) is not an assisted living facility. It is a skilled nursing facility. It is the last home for Nantucketers who for one reason or another cannot any longer live safely or be cared for safely in their homes. That is a desperate situation we all hope to avoid, but for some of our fellow Nantucketers that is what it comes to. Without OIH, the only alternative is for our fellow Nantucketers to be sent to a facility on the mainland. Beds in off-island facilities are hard to find, hard to monitor, and even harder to visit. I don’t believe that any Nantucketer would wish that on our frailest elders and their struggling families.

I hope Malcolm MacNab misspoke when he said that OIH serves 20 people. It is a 45-bed facility, and according to a report to the April board meeting of the Friends of Our Island Home, there are 41 residents this month. Considering that the over-65-years-old population of Nantucket is the fastest-growing segment of our population, we should be considering how to accommodate even more residents in need in the not-distant future.

OIH is not and has not been an albatross to the Town of Nantucket. It is the place where compassionate care has been provided to members of most Nantucket families over the years. As I understand it, the explanation for its current one-star rating has to do with overnight staffing by an LPN rather than an RN. Everyone there deserves a constellation of gold stars for keeping the residents safe from COVID-19 when it was ravaging nursing facilities nationwide. What threatens OIH currently is not the potential for flooding but out-of-date infrastructure, deferred maintenance, and inadequacy of reimbursement from state and federal government.

Far from being a problem, the fact that OIH is a community-owned and operated facility is its strength. We have eyes on it all the time, and a large corps of Nantucket individuals, businesses, and organizations provide ongoing support in countless ways. If there is any institution that embodies the concept of Nantucket community spirit, it is Our Island Home.

How anyone could question funding for Our Island Home while advocating spending for a community recreation center for able-bodied Nantucketers who have for their use an ice rink, community pool, playing fields, sports organizations, and all the island’s protected great outdoors is beyond me.

Frances Karttunen

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