North Ottawa Hospital Steps North?

June 6, 2003
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GRAND HAVEN — Seeking to better position itself where the growth is and shore up sagging market share on its northern flank, North Ottawa Community Health System is weighing options to relocating medical services well north of town.

Moving its so-called Spring Lake office to a site that’s more accessible to pockets of residential growth also would provide the hospital a new base from which to increase its reach north of the Grand River and into southern Muskegon County.

The office currently consists of a local group of primary care and specialty physicians, a blood laboratory, and an occupational health and physical therapy clinic.

Currently the office is housed in a strip mall on Old Grand Haven Road in Ferrysburg a few blocks north of the Grand River and lying within five minutes of the Ottawa-Muskegon County line.

“It does give us a footprint to expand,” North Ottawa President and CEO Mike Payne said.

He said the primary driver behind the search for a new site closer to the Ottawa-Muskegon County line is the dwindling market share the small Grand Haven-based health system has experienced in recent years.

Payne cites the decline in market share north of the Grand River as the primary factor in North Ottawa’s overall drop in market share within its core service region.

In the last fiscal year alone, he said, that share dropped from 45 percent to 42 percent.

Payne believes that relocating the office of Horizon Medical PLC to a better, more northerly  location would help to restore North Ottawa’s market share in the area.

“To stabilize our hospital we need to maintain the market share we have in all of our markets,” Payne said.

“For the people who have been loyal to this hospital, we need to continue to have access to health care and bring them back to this hospital.

“It’s not that we’re trying to capture new market share. We’re trying to re-capture; to get back that market.”

At the same time, he said, market research shows that neither North Ottawa nor its Muskegon-based competitors — Hackley Hospital and Mercy General Health Partners — holds a solid grip on the market in a growing area that stretches from the Grand River north to Pontaluna Road in Norton Shores, which lies along the county line.

Data show that many of the people moving into the area covering Spring Lake, Ferrysburg, Fruitport and Norton Shores don’t have a primary care physician or — once they are settled — plan to change their doctor.

Establishing a new location with primary care physicians and other medical services would give North Ottawa a strong presence in a highly fluid market, Payne said.

But he said North Ottawa needs to act quickly.

He said administrators and trustees will spend the next few months “flushing out” ideas and deciding what’s financially feasible. Payne, seeing a sense of urgency in better positioning North Ottawa north of the Grand River, hopes to have a new location established as early as the fall of 2004.

“That market is not going to stay fluid forever,” he added,

“People are going to have to start making health care decisions as things come up,” he said. “The time is very ripe and the window of opportunity is going to close very rapidly.”

One population movement factor may heighten his sense of urgency.

The sprawling wooded areas of Spring Lake and Fruitport Townships — which lie on the Ottawa side of the county line — in recent years have become the “in” place to live for many physicians whose practices and hospital privileges are in Muskegon County.

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