MA - Relocate Cape Cod Hospital, halt risky expansion - Opinion

Cape Cod Healthcare (CCHC) is in the final stages of planning a hospital campus expansion that brings important community assets closer to Hyannis Harbor and our rising seas. The sensible and vital, longer-term vision should be to relocate the entire hospital campus away from the waterfront to the existing CCHC 40-acre expansion site in Independence Park in Hyannis.

The latest information on sea-level rise comes from the dozens of sentinel stations located along the coastline of the United States. The message is clear and alarming: sea-level rise is accelerating. It really doesn’t matter what is causing the seas to rise for the purposes of this discussion; the question is how do we ensure the protection and functionality of Cape Cod’s most important community asset?

Recent Federal Emergency Management Agency flood maps put the current hospital campus barely out of the danger zone. The proposed new building is only a few feet away from the current 12-foot surge area. Have we already forgotten or are we choosing to ignore the lessons of Hurricane Sandy? Storm surges are unpredictable and, with rising sea levels, a margin of just a few feet represents a startling lack of forethought. In a time of acute crisis, the hospital needs to be accessible, open and fully functional.

The commonwealth of Massachusetts has recently launched a comprehensive Municipal Vulnerability Program to help communities with the challenge of sea-level rise. The Cape Cod Commission has received grant funding from National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and others to examine the challenges of rising seas with an eye toward developing options to cope with the inevitable changes our fragile peninsula will face. It appears to be paradoxical to accept a grant to examine these challenges while reviewing a project of this magnitude in this precarious location at the same time.

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