01 Dec Donation prepares McCarthy Care Center for reopening
By Roberta Cannon
When I worked as a hospice nurse at the original Mary McCarthy Hospice House (then located in Barnstable) many years ago, I realized how much patients valued the ability to look out the windows in any kind of weather; to watch birds at the birdfeeders, the flowers blooming in the gardens, and nature in general.
The simple things became the most enjoyable.
A generous donation to the McCarthy Care Center in Sandwich will ensure that patients will be able to continue those valued simplicities even amid a hurricane.
Paul Craig, president of Hyannis-based Shade & Shutter Systems, Inc. and VuSafe Industries, and his wife Sharon Kennedy, a trustee on the board of directors of Cape Cod Healthcare, recently donated the materials and installation of VuSafe storm panels that will protect the windows from the wind and flying objects, while still allowing patients to see out of their windows.
Some years ago, when Craig visited the facility, which was owned by HopeHealth at the time, he asked what they did to protect the windows in the event of a hurricane. He was told they had plywood sheets to cover the windows.
Bob Mailloux, who is now facilities maintenance administrative tech with Cape Cod Healthcare, recalls lifting and mounting heavy plywood sheets to protect the windows from hurricane Bob and later, Super Storm Sandy. “The place was completely dark,” said Mailloux. “It was almost like being in a closet.”
The thought of people, already in the darkest hours of their life, having to feel closed in spurred a thought in Craig.
“That got me thinking that these patients are here, sometimes in their last hours with family, and the instant visual was, whoa, that’s not right,” said Craig. “There has to be something better.”
While his offer to help did not gain traction at the time, Kennedy learned that the care center was undergoing some upgrades after Cape Cod Healthcare took over in 2019, so once again offered their alternative to plywood covers and the installation services.
“They thought it was a great idea and we decided to start with the ten patient rooms,” Craig said.
With the new system, the clear polycarbonate panels are lightweight, can be attached to the permanent hurricane hooks mounted above the windows and can be installed without ladders.
“I was at the Center the day the new storm window covers were being fitted and they are beautiful,” said Ann-Marie Peckham, president and CEO of the Visiting Nurse Association of Cape Cod (VNA), which now owns the building. “It is true, the rooms will remain light despite the storm.”
McCarthy Care Center (MCC) is a hospice inpatient facility with 10 private patient rooms. The center manages acute care needs of patients who are already in hospice care. Closed since early 2019, when then owner HopeHealth turned over its Cape Cod operations to the VNA. McCarthy House is scheduled to open in November, said Peckham.
The transfer of ownership to the VNA (and its parent company, Cape Cod Healthcare) from HopeHealth took the better part of last year, as it wound its way through state approvals, she said. The transfer was officially approved in September 2019, and Cape Cod Healthcare building officials spent the rest of the year assessing the facility and deciding what kinds of upgrades were needed to bring it up to 2020 standards, both cosmetically and in regard to regulatory requirements, she said.
When it reopens, the ambiance that the beloved center has always been known for – home-like, warm, soothing and welcoming – will be intact, said Sharon Molinaro, VNA Hospice director of operations and McCarthy Care Center (MCC). The name, given in honor of Mary E. McCarthy, founder of the Cape’s first hospice in the early 1980s, Hospice of Cape Cod (later known as Hospice and Palliative Care of Cape Cod), will also remain, she added.
The infrastructure of MCC will not change under the current $1.2 million construction plan, said Peckham. The worn wood floors are all being replaced with a more durable, easier to clean wood product, and window treatments, kitchen cabinets and counters are all being upgraded. Technology within the facility is also receiving a much-needed upgrade, she said.
Integral to the renovation process has been a patient and family advisory council comprised of family members of former MCC patients, donors, staff members and a former volunteer. The PFAC, as it is known, was brought together by CCHC last fall.
The VuSafe window storm panels are the latest to be added to the list of renovations and will help ensure that the facility and its patients stay safe and dry in the event of a severe storm.
“We are thrilled to be doing this,” said Craig, as the sounds of drills and movement of ladders echoed against the background of an otherwise quiet, peaceful landscape on a recent day.
“These are beautiful rooms with a nice setting and nice views,” he said. “If there is a hurricane warning and they need to put the panels up, it’s still a brightly lit room; you can see out and you are protected.”