Three Health Projects Held

March 28, 2005
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GRAND RAPIDS — Of eight projects seeking endorsement by the Alliance for Health this month, three will wait another month as hospital administrators reconsider their projects.

Two are being reexamined on the basis of price alone.

MetropolitanHospital presented a proposal to place an MRI host site at its SouthwestHealthPlaza. With the service provided by the same mobile MRI unit currently operating at other Metropolitan sites, the project requires only a nominal cost of $30,000 to retrofit the campus docking facility.

The proposed route amendment brought back to light a disproportionate cost structure originally identified by the Alliance in December 2003.

At $1,539 per scan, a Metropolitan MRI represents a 50 percent premium over the same service at Saint Mary's Health Care and 80 percent over Spectrum Health.

"You just don't tolerate that," said Alliance for Health Executive Director Lody Zwarensteyn. "When they put in that unit, we had commented at that time that their charges were very high and that they should reduce them. Now they've come back a year later with a charge that showed they, in effect, had done nothing."

With no legal authority over its members, the Alliance relies primarily on public opinion and the responsibility of participating organizations.

In the case of MetropolitanHospital, whose disproportionate costs are high profile and well documented, Zwarensteyn said the Alliance was considering issuing a consumer advisory against the hospital.

"We understand that sometimes you have to charge $5 for an aspirin to pay for something else, but you have to at least justify what you're going to subsidize," he said.

Metropolitan indicated that it intends to lower the charges.

As for HollandHospital's new CT scanner site, Zwarensteyn believes the high cost was an error.

"Their charges have always been very advantageous," he said. "They wanted a chance to look and see what was going on; it didn't fit the pattern."

HollandHospital intended to charge on average $672 per scan through the first three years. The cost of the procedure to the hospital: $96.

Citing schedule concerns, Spectrum Health withdrew its proposal for a mobile lithotripter. The three amended proposals will be presented at the April 21 meeting.

The Alliance did endorse five projects, among them the first surgical center in the northwest Grand Rapids area.

The $9.7 million WalkerSurgicalCenter is a joint project of Grand Rapids Ophthalmology, Foot and Ankle Specialists of West Michigan and the MichiganHandCenter. When completed, the

Walker Avenue
project will create 20 new jobs.

Jobs also are coming to Electrolux-struckMontcalmCounty. The 82-bed, private, for-profit retirement home, The Laurels of Carson City, will staff at least 92.

Mercy General Health Partners will launch a mobile PET route in Muskegon at a cost of $2,000; it offers a 30 percent discount over the Spectrum/Saint Mary's PET route.    

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