Metro Health first to join Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Network

September 18, 2011
| By Pete Daly |
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Saying it is a “move to enhance rehabilitation care” for its patients, Metro Health has become the first hospital in Michigan to join the Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Network launched this year.

In June, Mary Free Bed announced the establishment of the network, which it described as a “geographic alliance of hospitals and providers formally integrated with an independent Mary Free Bed.”

The Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Network will provide rehabilitation care for patients and families in west, mid- and northern Michigan through formal alignment with referring physicians and hospitals. Major trauma centers will have minority-ownership opportunities, but the Mary Free Bed Guild will be the majority partner in the network.

According to the announcement last week from Metro Health, it will offer all its rehabilitation services, including physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy and recreational therapy, through Mary Free Bed. Metro Health outpatients will continue to receive these services at Metro’s neighborhood outpatient centers. Inpatient medical and surgery therapy will be provided by Mary Free Bed therapists at Metro Health, and patients needing acute inpatient rehabilitation will be referred to Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital.

“We are delighted to welcome Metro Health as the first hospital to join the Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Network,” said CEO Kent Riddle. “Our goal in establishing this network is to allow strong, independent organizations to collaborate to provide the best rehabilitation care for patients no matter where they might be in the state. Our two organizations have enjoyed a long, mutually supportive relationship, and we look forward to strengthening those ties through this new collaboration.”

Metro Health CEO Mike Faas noted that Metro Health patients “already receive rehab services from Mary Free Bed physical therapists at our neighborhood outpatient centers, the new sports medicine center at the YMCA and within our own hospital. By joining the Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation network, we will be able to provide the right care at the right time and at the right location to our patients, which is critical to our commitment to delivering the best patient experience.”

Metro Health acute rehabilitation employees and therapists will all be given opportunities for jobs within Metro Health or within Mary Free Bed. Both organizations expect to retain all employees.

Mary Free Bed officials are currently working with several other health-care organizations throughout the state and expect to announce new partners for the network in the coming months.

Riddle said in June Mary Free Bed has “been talking to hospitals all the way to Flint, and as far north as the (Mackinac) bridge and as far south as Benton Harbor.”

As for Metro Health, Faas said last week that “as the business of health care changes, health care organizations like ours are considering how best to partner.”

In 2010, Mary Free Bed was in talks with Spectrum Health about a possible affiliation. Spectrum Health’s Grand Rapids facilities had provided more than half of Mary Free Bed’s inpatient volume and about 40 percent of rehab patients at Metro Health.

The Mary Free Bed Guild reportedly balked at a merger or affiliation with Spectrum Health. Several weeks later in 2010, a draft business plan at Spectrum was anonymously leaked to the news media, revealing an internal proposal for a rehab program at Spectrum’s Blodgett facility.

Members of the Guild and Mary Free Bed boards voted in June of this year to adopt the network plan.

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