Metro Health heart plans supported

August 22, 2010
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The Physicians Organization of Western Michigan Inc. and the University of Michigan Health System are supporting Metro Health Hospital’s bid for a second open heart surgery program in Grand Rapids.

The open-heart proposal also has received endorsements from Borgess Medical Center in Kalamazoo and Trinity Health, which owns Saint Mary’s Health Care in Grand Rapids and Mercy Health Partners in Muskegon.

Metro Health President and CEO Mike Faas said, the U-M, Borgess and St. Joseph Mercy Health System in Ann Arbor have agreed to provide technical support to help Metro Health establish heart programs.

Their letters have been submitted to the Michigan Department of Community Health to buoy Metro Health’s applications, he said.

“They’re very substantial and they raise the level of interest,” Faas said. “This is something that has really caught the attention of a number of different organizations. The Certificate of Need is really about need. It’s not about creating franchises or creating monopolies. It’s not just about volume in one location. It’s about access, it’s about cost and it’s about quality.”

Metro Health has submitted two separate but related applications under the MDCH’s Certificate of Need program, one for elective cardiac catheterization and one to establish an open heart surgery program. The state standards now require that a hospital have open heart surgery in order to provide elective, therapeutic cardiac catheterization, which includes procedures such as balloon angioplasty and stent placement.

In Kent County, those procedures are available only at Spectrum Health’s Meijer Heart Center, which performs more than 900 procedures annually, although other hospitals are allowed to perform cardiac catheterization on emergency patients.

Responding to requests from Metro Health, backed by other hospitals, the CON Commission agreed to start a Standard Advisory Committee this year to review regulations covering cardiac catheterization. The CON Commission chairperson, who will select the committee members, is accepting nominations until Sept. 7. The committee is expected to meet seven times between November and May to review the regulations and make recommendations to the CON Commission.

Currently the rules require that hospitals which offer cardiac catheterization as a non-emergency treatment also have an open heart surgery program.

Should Metro Health’s open heart surgery application be denied, the hospital would need the standards to be changed to allow it to offer therapeutic catheterization.

The comments come as the Michigan Department of Community Health is seeking members for a committee to review state regulations regarding cardiac catheterization, a separate program.

“There is no question: If you have an open heart program, you can do all of it,” Faas said. “If the open heart question is answered, then in our specific case of Metro, it’s all answered.”

Metro Health has argued that cardiac catheterization is safe to offer without open heart surgery back-up in-house. Metro Health already performs the procedure on emergency heart attack patients.

In a letter of support to Ken Nysson, who is the government relations manager for Metro Health, Dr. Ora Hirsch Pescovitz, U-M Health System CEO and executive vice president for medical affairs, said that both heart programs would be improved.

“In most circumstances, high-volume procedures like this are improved by the presence of multiple high-quality programs within a market area, as each program inspires the others to raise the bar in terms of clinical excellence and cost effectiveness,” Pescovitz wrote.

POWM Executive Director David Silliven indicated that the organization supports having a choice for heart procedures in West Michigan.

“This collaboration will serve more than just our physician members but all local physicians and their patients with a high-quality option which is essential to quantify and control costs,” Silliven wrote.

“Trinity Health West Michigan supports Metro Health’s open heart Certificate of Need application,” said Roger Spoelman, THWM’s regional market executive and president and CEO of Mercy Health Partners, in a written statement. “It supports choice, access and convenience in the West Michigan market.”

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