Metro Health, U-M in talks About heart services

February 26, 2009
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Metro Health is planning to add dozens of specialists and to expand its cardiovascular program in conjunction with the University of Michigan, the hospital’s president and CEO said Wednesday.

Metro Health President & CEO Mike Faas said Metro Health expects to decide within 30 days how to proceed with its cardiovascular program, which is staffed by doctors from West Michigan Heart. He said the hospital is in talks with the University of Michigan Health Systems, already Metro Health’s partner in the radiation oncology program at the Cancer Center at Metro Health Village, to expand the partnership to the cardiovascular arena.

He also said that Metro Health is in the process of recruiting 55 new specialists, allopathic and osteopathic, in a major addition to the 75 doctors already on its payroll.

Faas spoke to a small group at the Press Club of Grand Rapids on Wednesday.

“We have yet to make a final decision on how far are we willing to go with that cardiac program,” Faas said.

Under Michigan’s Certificate of Need regulations, a cardiovascular program must include open heart surgery in order to provide lower levels of treatments, he explained. Currently only emergency angioplasties are performed at Metro Health.

“We’re probably within 30 days of knowing which way we’ll go here, whether we’ll stabilize where we are or whether we’re going to move onto the next level,” Faas said, which could include asking the Michigan Department of Community Health to waive the open heart surgery rule.

The U-M hospital’s participation is still uncertain, Faas said.

“They have not committed or said yes,” he said. “We’re just working with them on that now, asking the same kind of questions we did when we worked with them on cancer.”

He said the radiation oncology program, in which Metro Health joined U-M’s nine-member Radiation Oncology Network, is at 75 percent capacity three months after launch and the hospital is considering applying for a second linear accelerator next year.

“It’s obviously been a great move for us, and our patients love it,” Faas said.

Faas also said that Metro Health is working with the Tiber Group of Navigant Consulting to recruit both doctors in specialties that are in short supply in the Grand Rapids area, such as orthopedics, neurosurgery and vascular medicine, “a few areas like that that we need to fill some voids in.”

Faas said he expects to add 55 specialists to the 75 doctors on the payroll who work in the hospital’s 12 Neighborhood Outpatient Centers. Fifty-five of the current staff are primary care doctors. The additional doctors likely would see patients at outpatient centers, but be based near the hospital in Wyoming, which opened in 2007.

The outpatient centers drive 60 to 65 percent of the referrals to the hospital, and he would like to increase that to 70 percent, Faas said.

“That’s what a good community hospital will do,” Faas said. “We have never been able to get there. There’s two reasons: facility, we fixed that; and the types and number of specialists you have, and we’re about to fix that. We have about another five to seven percent to grow.”

He also said Metro Health is considering moving its emergency room to Level II trauma center status.

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