Saints Eyes Expansion In SW Kent

November 22, 2004
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GRAND RAPIDS — A new $30 million medical campus planned in Byron Center would become Saint Mary's Health Care's largest location away from its main acute-care hospital in Grand Rapids.

Citing data that shows one of every five patients lives in the southwest area of Grand Rapids and Kent County, and with 90 percent of what patients need not requiring a hospital stay, Saint Mary's Health Care wants to break ground on the Southwest Outpatient Campus next spring and have it open by early 2007.

"Our patients tell us they want much more access to comprehensive, quality care with services closer to their homes and in a comfortable environment. Together with our physician partners, we have designed an innovative health-care facility that will cater to the patient," Saint Mary's Health Care President and CEO Phil McCorkle said.

Working with its physician group, Advantage Health, Saint Mary's Health Care will initially develop space for physician offices, an urgent care center, clinical labs, outpatient surgery, medical imaging such as MRI and CT, physical therapy, a pharmacy and programs to promote healthy lifestyles.

Saint Mary's needs to obtain state Certificate of Need approval for the medical imaging and outpatient surgery, a process that will begin in the coming months, Vice President of Strategic Planning Deb Stiemann said.

"On Day One we would hope to open with a fairly full complement of services," Stiemann said.

After that, Saint Mary's Health Care will examine the development of additional medical services at the campus, which at 22.4 acres has plenty of room for growth. Additional physician offices and a space for cancer treatment are possibilities for the site in the future, Stiemann said.

"We would see an opportunity to expand with other medically related services," she said.

The Southwest Outpatient Campus, proposed for farmland at 64th Street and Byron Center Avenue, adjacent to M-6, would place a significant medical center nearby the planned "health-care village," anchored by a $150 million, 208-bed hospital that Metropolitan Health Corp. is developing across the freeway.

The move by Saint Mary's comes three years after the Catholic health system, owned by Trinity Health Corp., approached Metro Health about a possible merger. Metro Health executives rebuffed the overture and have said since they were open to collaborating with Saint Mary's on medical services at the health-care village — an idea that never panned out.

"We just weren't able to reach middle ground for an agreement and a way to go forward collaboratively," Stiemann said.

Metro Health spokesman Jim Childress termed Saint Mary's plan as disappointing. Metro Health believes that working together would avoid the potential for a duplication of services that could contribute to rising health-care costs.

"We need to cooperate more and compete less to reduce the cost of health care, and this doesn't accomplish that," Childress said. "It's been a part of the core bedrock that the health-care village was founded on."

Metro Health has delayed further construction on the new hospital as executives prepare for a bond sale next year to finance the project. The new outpatient center planned down the road from the new hospital should not pose competitive problems for Metro Health, which envisions a far more extensive medical complex than what Saint Mary's is proposing, Childress said.

"We don't see it as a threat to the viability of Metro Health or the long-term success of the Metro Health village out there," he said.

The Southwest Outpatient Campus is designed to accommodate a growing demand for medical services in that area of Kent County and take pressure off Saint Mary's main hospital campus, Stiemann said. The project stems from a strategic plan that identified a need to expand primary care and ambulatory services in response to expanding market demand, not as a response to Metro Health's plans, Stiemann said.

"The market is growing," she said. "As they grow, it's timely that we have additional facilities to provide support for those practices." 

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