U-M In Talks With Metro Health

June 6, 2008
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WYOMING — Metro Health Hospital is in negotiations with the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center to oversee radiation oncology at its new cancer center, sources confirmed last week.

Metro Health, which has never before provided radiation therapy, has been seeking an affiliation with an experienced partner to oversee those services. Vice President of Growth Strategies Brian Jepson said an announcement is imminent, but he declined to name the organization.

“As we discussed before, we’ve had lots of discussion with potential partners for the radiation center,” Jepson said. “We feel like we know who the partner is going to be. Hopefully, we can make that announcement in the next two weeks. It definitely has been narrowed down at this point.”

He said Metro Health has had discussions with both the University of Michigan and Saint Mary’s Health Care.

The Cancer Center at Metro Health Village is set to open June 30 with chemotherapy services provided by Dr. Michael Zakem of Cancer and Hematology Centers of Western Michigan, who is a partner in the project. Metro Health last week received state Certificate of Need approval to introduce radiation therapy for cancer patients around the end of 2009.

Metro Health is talking to the University of Michigan about joining its Radiation Oncology Network, said Nicole Fawcett, spokeswoman for U-M’s Comprehensive Cancer Center.

“The Grand Rapids effort with Metro Health may be moving forward,” Fawcett said. “It’s in the review process right now. There is nothing official at this point. I believe it’s being reviewed or considered by the appropriate parties, but there’s not an agreement reached at this point.”

Jepson declined to elaborate. “We’ve had discussions with them as a potential partner for our radiation center. I can’t comment on the status of that today.”

He did say representatives of Metro Health and Saint Mary’s have met regarding “cancer and other services. We’re trying to find ways we can work together.”

“Saint Mary’s has been very open and forthcoming about our interest in working with Metro Health in the area of oncology. We continue to have conversations with Metro personnel at several levels,” Micki Benz, vice president of development and communications at Saint Mary’s Health Care, said.

“Our interest, particularly in radiation oncology, continues to be very strong. I think the fact that conversations are still going on is a positive sign.”

U-M’s Radiation Oncology Network links seven outstate and Detroit-area radiation centers with medical school faculty through telecommunications, Fawcett said.

“We have set up relationships with hospitals across the state, and they are actually staffed by a U-M radiation oncologist and have telecommunications methods so they can be in touch with our faculty here in Ann Arbor and make sure all of the technology that’s available follows all the guidelines that we are using. It’s the same technology, the same equipment we’re using here in Ann Arbor.

“With radiation, it’s given every day, usually five days a week, over the course of six, eight, 10 weeks,” Fawcett said. “So it’s really difficult for people if you live in Alpena to come down to Ann Arbor to get that treatment. It allows people to be treated in their community, but still receive the same high-quality care they would get if they came here to Ann Arbor.”

RON members include Alpena Cancer Center, the Assarian Cancer Center at the Providence Cancer Institute in Novi, Central Michigan Community Hospital in Mt. Pleasant, Foote Hospital in Jackson, the Ingham Regional Medical Center in Lansing, the Providence Cancer Center in Southfield, and the Veterans Administration Medical Center in Ann Arbor.

Benz said Saint Mary’s, which has its own cancer specialty building in the Lacks Cancer Center, is continuing talks with medical and executive staff at Metro Health.

The $9 million, 21,500-square-foot center at 5950 Metro Way SW is Metro Health’s first major foray into outpatient cancer treatment services. The predominately osteopathic hospital relocated last fall from Grand Rapids to the Metro Health Village development in Wyoming.

Metro Health intends to lease the Varian Clinac linear accelerator for about $4.2 million for four and half years. It will lease building space from the joint venture. Jepson said the machine is expected to be delivered by mid-July, and it will take four to six months to prepare it for patients.

In its CON application, Metro Health stated it expects about 6,000 patient visits to generate $3 million in revenue by the end of the third year of operations, leading to a revenue-over-expense margin of 9.72 percent. 

“We are extremely pleased to have state approval to move forward with the new cancer center at Metro Health Village,” Metro Health President Michael Faas said. “As our patient volume demonstrates, the need is certainly there, as is the desire from our patients, who consistently tell us that they want to stay within the Metro Health system for all their health-care needs.

“We look forward to continuing our work with Dr. Zakem and his team, to provide patient centered quality cancer care that is personalized, accessible and affordable.”

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