Construction, Health Care, and Real Estate

Overflow crowd halts hospital hearing

December 21, 2015
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Grand Haven Township was hosting a public hearing recently to hear comments about the proposed development of Health Pointe, a joint project of Holland Hospital and Spectrum Health, so I thought I would swing by and have a listen.

Apparently a lot of people wanted to comment.

The proposed new building could potentially eclipse the existing North Ottawa Community Health System. Along with housing the area’s physician practices that affiliate with Spectrum, the proposed facility would house several lucrative services: surgery, CT scanning and MRI scanning. These three are among the top profit centers for any hospital.

The building would have up to 150,000 square feet of space — not a minor office building by any means. A significant shift in volume away from the hospital to the new building could radically impact the existing hospital’s viability.

Having Holland Hospital and Spectrum Health work cooperatively clearly is a good thing. More inter-hospital cooperation could help reduce costly and unnecessary duplication and foster more collegiality among professionals.

However, the proposed facility would go into new territory — where neither currently has a facility presence. Although the issues are much more complex, this could be perceived by the public as two hospital systems carving up the market of a third.

Many local people must feel that the proposed new facility is a threat to their local facility, because they turned out in large numbers. In fact, the numbers were so large that the fire marshal ordered the hearing to be closed before it even started due to the large number of people, who filled the hearing room far beyond its rated capacity with more apparently waiting outside. The hearing was postponed until Jan. 11, when it can be held in a high school gymnasium to accommodate the large crowd.

Many years ago, people throughout West Michigan were able to identify with “their” hospital. Many had an intense loyalty to individual hospitals, and this loyalty was pledged regardless of whether their hospital actually offered the specific services they needed. They just knew which hospital was their hospital.

Hospitals were able to use this support in various ways: volunteers were recruited and fund-raising events were patronized. Contributions came in freely. Campaigns were organized to have hospital supporters use their political influence to help their hospital.

With the advent of larger systems, personal identity with individual hospitals seemed to wane. The Grand Haven interest indicates that community attention is still high.

A few years ago, several dozen CEOs of major businesses in Zeeland and Holland asked the Spectrum Health Board of Trustees to not take over Zeeland Community Hospital, an appeal that fell on deaf ears at Spectrum Health, which went ahead and absorbed Zeeland Community Hospital.

Now many Grand Haven-area citizens seem to be concerned with the proposal from Spectrum Health and Holland Hospital. Whether their voices will have more impact than four dozen CEOs in the Holland/Zeeland area remains to be seen.