Spectrum, Mary Free Bed merger talks near finalization

December 20, 2010
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A decision on whether the Spectrum Health and Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital will merge may be getting close, Matt Van Vranken recently told the Business Journal. He is president of Spectrum Health Hospitals and executive vice president of Spectrum Health.

“We’re really at the point in time where it is up to the Mary Free Bed board and the Spectrum Health system board to determine,” Van Vranken said. “We have a heck of a lot more that we agree on than our sticking points. We’re at a point in time where a decision needs to be made.”

It was just about a year ago that Spectrum Health started pushing to bring Mary Free Bed into its fold. According to an anonymous but widely circulated memo and a leaked Spectrum business plan, Spectrum Health told Mary Free Bed officials that unless they consented to a take-over, Spectrum would send its referrals to a new rehab unit it was planning for Blodgett Hospital. Nearly 60 percent of Mary Free Bed patients are referred by Spectrum.

Calls for comment from Mary Free Bed officials were referred to Spectrum Health.

Imposter of the highest order

The Business Journal’s Health Quarterly staff was among those stunned by last week’s revelation by the Associated Press that William Hamman, a pilot and former research scientist at Western Michigan University, lied about being a doctor.

Hamman developed the Center for Excellence for Simulation Research at WMU’s aviation campus at the Battle Creek airport and founded PSO One Inc., a company that earned federal certification as a patient safety organization. The Michigan Economic Development Corp. gave the center a $2.8 million grant, and Battle Creek Unlimited handed him $750,000. Last year he left WMU for Beaumont Hospitals in suburban Detroit, and even conducted educational sessions for the American Medical Association.

The AP reported last week that Beaumont’s check of his credentials for another grant application revealed that while Hamman was indeed a pilot, he had never graduated from medical school nor did he hold a doctorate. He did not hold a medical license in Michigan nor did he treat patients, according to the AP.

In his interview with HQ, Hamman was careful to never specifically say that he graduated from medical school, but he never corrected any references to himself as a doctor. He handed out two business cards — one for Beaumont, one for WMU — that identified him as an M.D. and Ph.D.

“I never really went out and practiced,” Hamman told HQ in 2009. “I don’t know if I would have enjoyed it that much, quite honestly. I’m kind of glad it happened like it has with me. I’m involved with health care, where I really feel like I can make an impact and a difference, probably much more than I could as a cardiologist.”

Health care needs to apply aviation-like controls on errors to improve patient safety, he said in his HQ interview. “Humans are humans,” he added. “They are going to make mistakes.”

Medical world constricts

More consolidation in the health care industry last week: Bronson Health agreed to purchase Trinity Health’s 50 percent share in the Battle Creek Health System plus 1 percent. That will make the Kalamazoo nonprofit health organization the controlling partner of the two-hospital system.

BCHS Community Partners will continue to hold 49 percent of shares in the Battle Creek hospital.

With 2009 net operating revenue of $645 million and 599 beds, Bronson has nearly 5,000 employees. BCHS has 204 beds and about 1,400 workers. For the tax year that ended in June 2009, BCHS reported $198 million in total revenue with a margin of $1.7 million.

Trinity Health also owns Saint Mary’s Health Care in Grand Rapids.

A jazzed-up effort

The area’s commercial construction industry is introducing a new event this spring that combines the efforts of two previous endeavors: the “Meet the General Contractor” session put on by the Builders Exchange of Michigan and the Construction & Design Professionals Expo that had been sponsored by the Construction Specific Institute.

The 2011 West Michigan Design & Construction Expo will be held 2-8 p.m. April 21 at the Davenport Student Center in Grand Rapids.

“The event will focus on education, networking, new product information, new product lines, the WECAN Build Michigan competition and a canned food drive,” said Elizabeth Bovard of the Buildings Exchange of West Michigan.

The event will bring together business owners, facilities managers, architects, engineers, general contractors, subcontractors and suppliers.

More details about the event will be announced soon.

Starkly different tunes

The Detroit Symphony Orchestra continued to grab statewide attention last week as its financial and labor woes lingered, but it was the Grand Rapids Symphony that garnered some positive notice.

Gov. Jennifer Granholm and U.S. Senator Carl Levin, D-Detroit, issued a joint statement urging the preservation of the DSO that “is one of America’s greatest musical ensembles, one of Detroit’s true cultural jewels, and a major public institution that helps define southeast Michigan’s quality of life.” The statement stressed that “a thriving DSO is also a foundational element of a ground-breaking public-private-philanthropic plan to revive Detroit’s Midtown section.”

“The DSO has been running a significant and unsustainable deficit, its endowment is shrinking to a critical point, and its creditors are calling in loans connected with the construction of the Max Fisher Music Center,” the pair said. “For the sake of Detroit and Michigan, we must preserve this musical gem.”

The statement indicated a new DSO labor contract “will require a significant reduction in compensation to the musicians for the orchestra to survive; (2) creating and executing a plan that allows the symphony to thrive in the future will require close collaboration and teamwork between the DSO management and musicians, which will require building relationships of trust going forward; and (3) despite how difficult negotiations have been to date and the bitter feelings this labor dispute has engendered, the parties are within striking distance of an agreement.”

In West Michigan, however, at a time when arts organizations across the country are struggling, the Grand Rapids Symphony posted a balanced budget for 2009-10 “through a combination of increased fundraising and aggressive cost reduction.”

Symphony president and CEO Peter Kjome indicated “the Symphony maintained its broad range of performances, collaborative work and educational programs while reducing more than 6 percent, or approximately $550,000, from its operating budget, compared with the previous season. The organization met or exceeded key goals outlined in its operational plan for 2009-10 in the areas of concert income, annual campaign, private support and other initiatives.”

“The guidance of our board of directors, the continued support of the community and efforts to reduce expenses have enabled us to maintain the quality and scope of our programs while continuing to move down the path of fiscal sustainability,” Kjome said. The total expenses of the Grand Rapids Symphony for the 2009-10 season ending Aug. 31, 2010, were $8.2 million, a reduction of more than 6 percent versus the 2008-09 season. The orchestra posted a positive operating result of $65,941, or 0.8 percent of total expenses, reflecting cost reductions of $556,112 versus the previous season.

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