Metros Unique Plan Goes Extra Mile

June 5, 2002
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Metropolitan Hospital is seeking the necessary approvals to begin building a better health care delivery system — especially for south Kent County residents whose population has greatly expanded. The Alliance For Health board will determine next week whether to endorse the move and make its recommendation to the Michigan Department of Public Health. The state expects to make a decision mid-month.

The decision in this matter is one of mileage. The state restricts hospitals from a move farther than two miles from a current campus. The two-mile issue is the precursor to the entire plan. The bureaucratic issue of such restrictions aside, the Alliance is most concerned about an “over-bedded” community, because Metropolitan is considered to have “excess” beds based on its hospital occupancy.

Such would not likely be the case, however, in a move which obviously better serves the fastest growing area of Kent County.

The Metropolitan Hospital board made a good decision in this proposal, which includes collaborative programs, such as a nursing home on the campus to serve the increasing elderly population.

While Spectrum Health officials publicly say they have no comment on the proposal, it is a mistake to believe their lobbyists are not working behind the scenes on roadblocks. The growing Spectrum monopoly also is of concern to those paying for health care in this community, and in this matter.

The state’s concern regarding setting a precedent is a non-issue. It would be granting an exception or variance to its rule. Metropolitan does, indeed, have a unique case to make.

Michael Faas, Metropolitan president and CEO, has the facts on access to hospital patients, noting that 45 percent of those individuals live in the suburbs and rural areas of the region. Faas notes that the Metropolitan plan could cut $42 in per-patient-day costs, saving $5.3 million annually. Some argue that number, but Spectrum, for example, includes in its calculation of community savings (since the merger) what increases it might have charged patients if the merger had not been approved.

The entire hospital building cost is $155 million. Metro’s board is already in receipt of proposals to buy or lease the current campus, and Borgess Health Alliance parent Ascension Health has indicated it would assist with an $87 million bond issue. The probable association between Kalamazoo’s Borgess and Metropolitan creates further partnership — and savings — opportunities for residents in both counties and those in the service area beyond.

Byron Township Supervisor Larry Silvernail has endorsed the plan, saying, “There is no question that we need an excellent health-care facility on the south end.” The Grand Valley Metropolitan Council, which does a commendable job as watchdog on regional development, also endorses the Metropolitan move. So, too, does Grand Rapids Business Journal.

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