CEO We won't give up' on Metro heart plan
Even as Metro Health plans to appeal last week’s Michigan Department of Community Health decision to deny its application for open heart surgery and elective cardiac catheterization, the hospital is turning its focus to statewide committees that will study those services.
Metro Health President & CEO Mike Faas said he won’t give up the quest for a heart program to be run in conjunction with Saint Mary’s Health Care.
“One of the great things about Metro is a never-say-die attitude,” Faas said. “We were told no six or seven times on our relocation, and eventually, on the eighth or ninth time, somebody said yes.
“We would have loved to have had this go through on our first attempt. Certainly, we do intend to appeal.”
Under the appeals process, Metro Health has until mid-December to file an appeal. MDCH spokesman James McCurtis Jr. said the issue next moves to administrative law judge for a hearing to determine whether the Certificate of Need staff acted in accordance with state law. The judge’s decision then would go to the MDCH director for a final decision.
“If the two of us can’t apply for and receive approval for an open heart program, it pretty much is apparent that the standards will not allow anybody to have an open heart program,” Faas said.
Dennis McCafferty, vice president for health policy for the Economic Alliance of Michigan, a business-labor coalition, said Michigan has several open heart surgery programs that have failed to reach the 300 minimum cases within three years of launching. He said the minimum number under the Certificate of Need program is meant to reflect community need, economic viability and quality.
“If a program doesn’t do anywhere near that, there wasn’t a community need there,” McCafferty said.
Michigan has 33 adult open heart surgery programs, according to the Economic Alliance, some of which have struggled to meet the 300 annual minimum. Two of them opened within the past three years. Eighteen failed to meet the 300 mark in 2009, including Mercy Health Partners in Muskegon.
The state saw 11,683 open heart surgeries in 2009, down from 12,113 in 2008 and 12,761 in 2007, the data showed.
The MDCH’s Certificate of Need Commission, which set standards for certain medical services, this fall appointed a Standards Advisory Committee to review the rules for cardiac catheterization. One of the issues the committee, which has met only once so far, will consider is whether to retain a requirement that hospitals offering elective cardiac catheterization also have open heart surgery.
A similar committee is expected to be formed for open heart surgery in 2011.
“The standards do have to be looked at,” Faas said. “We’ll work through the process. We’re already into what our next approach is going to be, and it will start with the appeal. There are a number of other things we have been working on and will continue to do so to ensure that at some point there is a second open heart surgery program in Grand Rapids.
“All you can be assured of is that we won’t give up.”
Metro Health argued that Kent County needs a second heart program to provide competition on quality and price for Spectrum Health’s Meijer Heart Center, which is the only Grand Rapids hospital providing those services now. Open heart surgery is also performed at hospitals in Muskegon and Kalamazoo. Only emergency cardiac catheterization is allowed at Metro Health.
State CON regulations require that an open heart program perform at least 300 procedures to maintain quality, and that therapeutic, elective cardiac catheterization be offered only in facilities that provide open heart surgery.
Spectrum Health argued that diverting as few as 100 patients from the Meijer Heart Center would cause deterioration in quality and financial performances. Hospital representatives also pointed to Metro Health’s below average scores in heart care on Medicare’s HospitalCompare website. In addition, the total number of open heart surgeries is dropping as other types of treatment improve.
Metro Health contended that it could serve 300 patients or more, if the CON regulations allowed it to consider potential patient referrals from doctors. The hospital also argued that since it moved to Wyoming in 2007, it has made substantial changes in its approach to caring for heart patients that are not yet reflected in the grades at www.hospitalcompare.hhs.gov