Metro Health Plans Center For Cancer

October 1, 2007
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WYOMING — With the Lacks Cancer Center and the Lemmen-Holton Cancer Pavilion driving doctors and patients to downtown Grand Rapids, Metro Health Hospital is staking a claim in southwestern Kent County with plans for a new cancer care building at Metro Health Village.

 Metro Health intends to spend $4 million for a leased linear accelerator, according to a document filed with the Alliance for Health. The hospital, which pegged the total investment in the project at $9 million, indicated it expects to use $1 million in donations.

“Our focus remains on primary and secondary care and on collaborating with other institutions to meet additional patient needs,” Metro Health President & CEO Mike Faas stated. “But, as specialty care expands in this region and technology changes, the boundaries of what are considered primary care and secondary care are changing.”

Metro Health Hospital said last week it planned to file a letter of intent with the Michigan Department of Community Health to acquire its first linear accelerator, used to deliver radiation treatments to cancer patients. The acquisition must be approved through the state’s Certificate of Need process.

Dr. Michael Zakem, an osteopathic medical oncologist and member of Cancer and Hematology Centers of West Michigan in Grand Rapids Township, will lead the new center. It will be housed in a 21,500-square-foot building on a wooded lot in the southeast corner of the 170-acre Metro Health Village on Byron Center Avenue SW near M-6. On Sunday, Metro Health Hospital moved from Grand Rapids into a new $150 million facility that anchors the Wyoming development (see related story).

“Although I see a lot of patients there, they do not have radiation therapy and do not have any cancer facilities,” said Zakem. “Right now most of our outpatient chemotherapy is done through our current office. But that changes when the cancer center opens downtown. Our current office is going to close next year.

“With Metro building the new hospital, it’s going to make it convenient for cancer care.”

Two of Zakem’s partners lead medical oncology at Lacks, which is part of Saint Mary’s Health Care, and at Spectrum Health, which plans to open the Lemmen-Holton building in mid-2008. Zakem said once the Grand Rapids Township office closes, those doctors will focus on their downtown locales. The practice will remain intact, he said.

“It’s the medical politics of Grand Rapids,” said Zakem, who plans to maintain his privileges at Saint Mary’s and Spectrum. “My group staffs both of those facilities. My major practice is at Metro. It’s really medical politics, because the hospitals are demanding they provide these services at their hospitals now. It’s a big paradigm shift from what has been happening.”

As the major medical oncology group in the Grand Rapids area, Zakem said the doctors are like the “quarterbacks” of cancer care, involved in diagnosing cancer and developing recommendations and plans for treatment.

At the Metro Health cancer facility, Zakem said, patients will be able to meet with doctors and undergo chemotherapy and radiation. He pointed out that with some treatment plans calling for daily radiation for several weeks, Metro Health patients may find the Wyoming location to be more convenient than traveling into downtown Grand Rapids.

“There likely will be additional ancillary services, such as support groups, visiting consultations — for example, surgeons,” said Zakem, one of the investors in the project. “I hope it is viewed as being complementary for what we need to do for patient care in the Grand Rapids area.”

Lody Zwarensteyn, president of Alliance for Health, a local health care planning organization, said cancer care is known for “lucrative” reimbursement levels from health care insurers.

Zakem said he anticipates 600 to 700 new cancer cases annually based on Metro Health’s patient base of 130,000.

Saint Mary’s $42 million, 180,000-square-foot, five-story Lacks Cancer Center has 42 private, inpatient beds and three linear accelerators, and saw 1,349 patients in 2006. It opened in 2005.

Construction is continuing on Spectrum Health’s Lemmen-Holton Cancer Pavilion, a $78 million, 200,000-square-foot, six-story center that will have four linear accelerators when it opens next year. Spectrum treats about 3,000 new cancer cases, or two-thirds of diagnoses in Kent County, annually.

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