Hackley Move Puts More Pressure On Health Costs

October 15, 2004
Print
Text Size:
A A

It's troubling to see HackleyHospital lending itself to the development of a $8 million "comprehensive ambulatory medical facility" in Muskegon's southern suburbs. The project entails constructing a twin-story 60,000-square-foot building that the hospital will lease for a broad range of outpatient testing. It is minutes from the planned NorthOttawaCommunityHospital development, and Hackley believes the move will make it more competitive. Health care and competition rarely work together and serve to drive costs up.

The structure will lie in a 30-acre "medical park" in Norton Shores just southwest of the Lakes Mall. The park will have space for "complementary buildings," presumably doctors' offices, pharmacies and other health-care firms.

Hackley's announcement says the medical park ties to its strategic plan to "offer greater access for our patients." It adds that the site is "in the hub of a growing population in southern MuskegonCounty. Many of our physicians already serve patients from this region and this is a tremendous opportunity for physicians to get closer to their patients." That's hooey.

HackleyHospital lies in southern MuskegonCounty. What's more, the Hackley Campus — with its three-story physicians' office building — has dual outpatient testing facilities plus a retail pharmacy and a separate retail medical implements store.

Finally, we're not talking Doctors Without Borders here.

The "region" that the medical park would serve "for physicians to get closer to their patients" is not underserved. In fact, Norton Shores and its cheek-by-jowl Ottawa County municipalities — Fruitport and Spring Lake Townships and Ferrysburg — are where most of the area's physicians, med techs and hospital administrators reside, nestled among many of their own patients.

Hackley's claim about getting physicians closer to their patients is doubly phony. Patients go to doctors, not vice versa. Too, doctors direct patients where to get testing.

To be sure, some doctors may pay the premium to leave Hackley's office building and build offices at

Farr Road
and
Harvey Street
. The move may save them six miles in their daily commute. For some patients, driving to the medical park may be more convenient — by a matter of five minutes — though they'll find Lakes Mall traffic far heavier than anything near HackleyHospital

Take away all the announcement's fluff and it's clear that Hackley simply stamped its footprint near the Ottawa-MuskegonCounty line to preempt NorthOttawaCountyHospital from doing the same.

It is a strategic business decision, all right, but has nothing to do with giving doctors access to patients. If these hospitals were freely competing businesses, we'd have no comment. The price of duplication in this case has no punitive financial consequences as it would for any other type of business. The consumer pays the price.

The medical facility will cost far more than $8 million when the prices of duplicated real estate, furnishings and state-of-the-art equipment are included. And at the end of the day, inelastic demand forces patients to pay those costs in the form of higher deductibles, higher co-pays, higher shares of higher employer insurance premiums, and consequently lower salaries and wages.

Hackley's decision is exactly the mindset that keeps health-care costs rising out of control.    

Editor's Picks

Comments powered by Disqus