Spectrum Has Issues With Med School

April 28, 2004
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GRAND RAPIDS — Spectrum Health directors say “significant financial and operational issues” need to be worked out before the health system signs on to a proposal to bring much of Michigan State University’s medical school to Grand Rapids.

The Spectrum Health Board of Directors, at its regular monthly meeting on Tuesday, discussed but took no action on MSU’s proposal to develop a medical school campus in Grand Rapids within five years.

In a statement issued this morning, directors said that “fundamental operational and budget issues still must be resolved before Michigan State University’s College of Human Medicine could expand to Grand Rapids.”

Spectrum Health will continue discussions on the issue and directors expect a resolution by no later than the end of the year, directors said.

“We continue to believe that the community would benefit from having a medical school in Grand Rapids,” Spectrum Health CEO and President Richard Breon said in the statement. “However, the board has concerns that the plan, as it has been presented, has significant financial and operational issues that need to be resolved. We need more details before any decisions can be made.”

MSU President Peter McPherson unveiled a plan last month to expand the College of Human Medicine with a new campus in Grand Rapids under an affiliation with Spectrum Health, with classes for second-year medical students targeted to begin in the fall of 2006 and first-year medical student classes beginning in 2007. The expansion into Grand Rapids would quickly evolve into a full, four-year medical school by 2009.

In Grand Rapids, MSU would benefit by linking with a large health system in Spectrum Health, which has nine hospitals in western Michigan, and a major research center in the Van Andel Institute. MSU also would have a greater ability to tap into a generous philanthropic community in Grand Rapids for financial support.

To Spectrum Health, an affiliation with MSU’s College of Human Medicine could help in recruiting physicians, especially sub-specialists, who also want to teach and conduct research. The move also would play into ongoing efforts in Grand Rapids to build health care and life sciences into larger economic sectors in West Michigan.

MSU trustees are set to vote on the plan when they meet May 7 and have a public hearing scheduled in East Lansing tomorrow.

While Spectrum Health wants to see medical education expand in Grand Rapids, Breon has said all along that an affiliation with MSU has to make good business sense. At issue is how an affiliation with the College of Human Medicine would affect Spectrum Health’s administrative cost structure.

Breon also has said that Spectrum Health is not tied to MSU’s May 7 deadline for making a decision.           

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