Hospital boards must serve community first

April 26, 2010
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At first glance the business community may question whether Metro Health Hospital’s state application for permission to provide cardiac catherization and open heart surgery in some way duplicates the services available at Spectrum Health, but reasons aplenty lie just beneath the surface.

First, Metro proposes to provide such services in conjunction with its partner Saint Mary’s and Mercy Health Partners in Muskegon as well as other Trinity Health affiliates. Metro’s application to the state is supported by hospitals across the state, generally on the merits of proposed changes to the regulations which do not yet reflect changes in hospital procedures.

Currently under certain circumstances Metro’s heart and vascular surgeons must stop certain procedures and transfer a patient to Spectrum under current state regulation. Dr. John Key, a member of Metro Heart and Vascular physician group explained the regulations create a situation in which the physicians “can take care of the sickest of the sick, but we can’t take care of the stable patient.”

The Metro Heart and Vascular group formed after Spectrum acquired West Michigan Heart, at the time the largest contingent of heart doctors in the region. Physicians within the group opposed some of Spectrum’s impositions on them as part of the subsidiary, and formed new associations.

Metro Health President and CEO Mike Faas noted the lack of choice in the market and access, “In West Michigan, in reality, there is kind of an evolved monopoly of sorts.”  Indeed demand for heart services at Metro have increased. State regulations require a minimum of 300 open heart surgeries for a program’s viability. Spectrum has reported to the state it performed 972 and more than 13,000 catheterization procedures.

Most worrisome, however, is the fact that Metro or Saint’s heart patients must wait behind those at Spectrum. Dr. Key indicated this is often “due to bed availability problems at Spectrum or cath lab openings at Spectrum.”

We acknowledge once again the business community’s aspersions regarding the perception of Spectrum as a bully monopoly, and also acknowledge growing concern that Spectrum is “too big to fail” and reliant on continued affiliation and acquisition for market share.

In that regard it may be a footnote to the local community board now regarding the future of Munson Healthcare, a board commended for its service to community first, and the institutional entity second.

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