Zeeland Hospital Hearing Tomorrow

October 10, 2003
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ZEELAND — The first nod of approval could come tomorrow for plans to build a new Zeeland Community Hospital.

Staff at the Alliance for Health have backed the project and the regional health-care planning agency’s Evaluation Board will likely do the same when it meets Thursday morning, recommending that the state Department of Community Health issue a certificate of need for Zeeland Community to proceed with the project.

Zeeland Community Hospital meets all but one standard under the state’s Certificate of Need code to build a new hospital. Zeeland Community will likely qualify for a waiver to the lone unmet standard that requires new hospital construction to include at last 200 beds, Alliance for Health President Lody Zwarensteyn said.

The ability the new campus would give Zeeland Community to generate operating efficiencies and expand in the future make the project viable and deserving of support, Zwarensteyn said. The new site, he wrote in his recommendation to the Evaluation Board, “is desirable for many reasons.”

“The new facility has the potential for fostering efficiencies that might result in lower operating costs, which ideally could benefit patients,” Zwarensteyn wrote. “The current site restricts efficiency and growth potential. Without physical expansion, any changes would have to be accomplished within the existing ‘footprint’ which could be very costly and/or disruptive to patient care. A new site can allow significant enhancements for the hospital, making relocation extremely desirable.”

After receiving the endorsement from the Alliance for Health, the hospital will await a final answer from the state, which should come in December.

Proposed for Zeeland Community Hospital is a new $36.1 million, 140,000-square-foot facility along Chicago Drive east of Zeeland. The new hospital would replace an aging facility on the city’s south side that’s inefficient and has no room left for expansion to accommodate burgeoning patient volumes.

Operating inefficiencies, hospital President Henry Veenstra said, “will only get worse over time” and are driving the need for a new facility.

“We feel this will position us for our mission. It will give us the ability long into the future to grow as our population grows,” Veenstra said.

Beyond a presentation from Veenstra, an Alliance for Health public hearing last week on the project generated no comments.

Zeeland Community’s plans call for construction on the new four-floor, 57-bed hospital to begin next year on the 40-acre site at Washington Avenue and 84th Avenue. Occupancy is targeted for the summer of 2006.

Following industry trends, Zeeland Community plans to make all of its rooms private. Doing so will enhance patient privacy and safety and generate efficiencies by eliminating logistical headaches such as assuring men and women are not placed together in the same semi-private room and smokers and non-smokers are kept separate, Veenstra said.

Patients are also increasingly demanding private rooms, he said.

“You’re meeting patient expectations of today,” Veenstra said.    

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