Newly Merged Unit Part Of Women's Health Center

July 7, 2008
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GRAND RAPIDS — Overlooking a river of vehicles coursing along Interstate 196, the top floor of the Women’s Health Center of West Michigan is about to become home to a 15-doctor practice melded from three into one.

On the eastern outskirts of Grand Rapids’ “Medical Mile,” the 110,000-square-foot Women’s Health Center next week will become home to Grand Rapids Women’s Health, a practice formed earlier this year with the merger of three gynecology and obstetrics practices: Grand Valley Gynecologists; Knollcrest OB/GYN; and Newton, Frank and Blickley OB/GYN.

The merger makes Grand Rapids Women’s Health one of the largest obstetrics and gynecology practices in the area.

The merged practice will occupy 22,000 square feet on the new building’s top floor. It’s the first tenant to move into the new building. Included are two operating rooms for outpatient procedures and a research center.

“Traditionally, we were three of the larger groups at Blodgett (Hospital) before the Spectrum merger occurred,” Dr. Robyn Hubbard said.

Some of those doctors are among the approximately 30 physician investors in the $25 million building in Mid Towne Village on Michigan Street between College and Union avenues. The builder is Pinnacle Construction Group of Grand Rapids.

In addition to Grand Rapids Women’s Health, tenants include: Grand Rapids Fertility & In-vitro Fertilization; Plastic Surgery Associates; Premier Skin Care; Physiotherapy Associates; Keystone Pharmacy; Spectrum Obstetrics; Esthete Medical Spa – Skin Care & Beauty Institute; Spectrum Blood Draw Services; Spectrum Mammography; Pelvic Floor Institute; Baby Beloved – Lactation Services/Retail; and Psychology Associates. Nearly 40,000 square feet is still available for lease, according to the center’s Web site, www.womenshealthcenterofwestmichigan.com

Michael Garrett, managing partner for the building, said a deli and a pharmacy are planned, and once those leases are finalized, occupancy will be at 90 percent. The third floor is expected to open with Spectrum Obstetrics in August, with the remainder opening in the fall. A fall grand opening is being planned, Garrett added.

Dr. Jeffrey Frank said stagnant reimbursements and higher costs are encouraging practice mergers across the country.

“The idea of taking these three independent groups and putting them together in one entity has been something we turned around for a very long time, probably 10 years,” Frank said. “With the concept of building a women’s health center, it was the final issue that led us to finally step forward and move into one group. When the concept of the building was established, it became a natural to move forward and finally do it.”

With the merger effective Jan. 1, practice administrator Tim Dykema and operations manager Dawn Carpenter have been busy trying to sort out and streamline procedures. The practice employs 85 people, including three nurse practitioners, in addition to the doctors.

“There had to be compromise,” Frank said. “We’re continually trying to find best practices.”

Even though all the doctors were residents at the same local hospitals, that helped to shape their approach to caring for patients and didn’t spill over into the nitty-gritty details of running a practice, he added.

“It was a really tremendous effort that we made,” said Dr. Elizabeth Luce. “We learned a lot. We had some great guidance and we worked really hard to get here.”

The top-floor design separates patient care areas into three pods, each with its own nursing station. “Our goal is to be a large group that still feels personal, with comprehensive care,” Luce added.

The interior design for the Grand Rapids Women’s Health build-out was done by Jefferey P.  Hunt of Craig Architects Inc. of Grand Rapids. Custer Office handled the choices and installation of Steelcase Co.’s Nurture line for health care.

While the practice will be moving with paper records, Dykema said the plan is to move into electronic medical records within several years.

The surgical suites will be available to patients with private insurance, but who don’t meet the requirements to qualify for reimbursement from Medicare or Medicaid, Dykema said. That would have taken more space and a larger financial commitment. Outpatient surgeries for Medicare and Medicaid patients will be performed in the hospital or at other qualified locations, he said, as has already been done.

The doctors said they are pleased to be close to Spectrum Health’s Butterworth Hospital and Saint Mary’s Health Care, where most of their work is located, particularly since Spectrum moved labor and delivery services and women’s surgery to the downtown location.

“One of the good things about being down here is being part of the Medical Mile,” Frank said. “We are kind of anchoring the eastern end of it, but we’re not in the center of the congestion. For our patients, access to us at College and Michigan here avoids that centralized pressure. We have our parking structure here, so parking is easy. I have the feeling that will take away some of the concerns people have about coming downtown.”

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