4 Strikes And Youre Out

November 4, 2002
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Is this perhaps a preview of things to come within the health care establishment across Michigan?

Proposal 4, the constitutional amendment on the ballot tomorrow that would shift more than $300 million the state receives annually in the national tobacco settlement to health care and anti-smoking programs, is a hot topic among citizens statewide. The proposal has largely been pushed by health care interests, led by the Michigan Health and Hospital Association.

So why are we seeing hospitals — including some Michigan’s largest health systems — putting their money behind the group fighting the proposal, People Protecting Kids and the Constitution? Word is that a serious wedge has developed within the MHHA and no matter how the proposal is decided in tomorrow’s election, you can expect to see plenty of fallout in the weeks ahead within the health care community and in its lobbying arm in Lansing.

Meanwhile, in the waning weeks of the campaign, health systems — Grand Rapids’ Spectrum Health among them — have pumped more than $1 million into the coffers of the anti-Proposal 4 crowd, enabling them to roll out television ads featuring former Attorney General FrankKelley

Spectrum provided People Protecting Kids and the Constitution $260,000, a donation that spokesman BruceRossman says reflects the health system’s view that Proposal 4 is bad public policy and sets a bad precedent by changing the state Constitution to provide funding for certain interests.

“We felt strongly about this and we needed to help fund it,” Rossman said.

Elsewhere, Detroit Medical Center provided $904,531 to the anti-Proposal 4 effort and, in perhaps a gesture that could foretell the future if others follow suit, has withdrawn from the Michigan Health and Hospital Association.

Other health systems providing a financial boost to the campaign were McLaren Regional Health System in Flint, Bay Regional Medical Center in Bay City, Lapeer Regional Medical Center, and Ingham Regional Medical Center in Lansing, which each gave $25,000.

Universities and colleges have anted up as well. The Presidents Council of State Universities of Michigan gave $250,000 to People Protecting Kids and the Constitution. Calvin College contributed $6,500.

While the contributions gave the anti-Proposal 4 effort a sizable shot in the arm and a fighting chance as election day approaches, they pale in comparison to the more than $4.4 million received by the Citizens for a Healthy Michigan from varying health care interests — including more than $2.8 million alone from the Michigan Health and Hospital Association.

Among the numerous hospitals giving to pro-Proposal 4 forces were Holland Community Hospital, $35,000; Zeeland Community Hospital, $11,208; and Allegan General Hospital, $9,672.

  • There is more than just money at stake in the Proposal 4 battle, however. Personal beliefs are an integral part of the process.

And sometimes those beliefs are worth fighting for.

Dr. Luis Tomatis has held a number of esteemed positions in the West Michigan health care community, from cardiovascular surgeon to supporter for the Life Sciences Corridor to consultant for the Van Andel Institute.

One position he no longer will hold, however, is that of spokesperson and member of the board of the Metropolitan Leadership Council of the American Heart Association.

In a letter to Carl Ver Beek, chairman of the AHA Metro Board, Tomatis announced his resignation and laid the blame for the decision squarely at the feet of AHA’s support for Proposal 4.

He called the measure “an example of pork barrel distributions in the most unsophisticated emotional appeal to the uninformed.”

Tomatis said he thinks the leadership of the AHA has been hoodwinked by the publicity tied to Proposal 4 and doesn’t blame them for what he calls good intentions. But that didn’t sway his resolve.

“I can’t be the spokesman of the AHA Midwest affiliate and, at the same time, actively fight to have this proposition defeated,” he said. “This is why, when all arguments fail, the ultimate act of protest is to resign so as not to be part of this colossal mistake.”

  • While Todd Oosting of C.D. Barnes & Associates was walking to the podium at Tuesday’s Associated Builders & Contractors program to receive an award for his company’s safety record, another in his industry was going to jail for the same reason.

For the first time in Michigan history, a builder was sentenced to a year in jail on an involuntary manslaughter conviction for the death of a worker on a job site.

James Morrin, a foreman for J.A. Morrin Concrete Construction Co. of Toledo, also was given three years’ probation for the death of 24-year-old Robert Sorge who was electrocuted at a job site in Dundee when he backed a gravel truck into a 7,600-volt electrical line.

The state had notified Morrin and the firm that the power line was hung too low two days before Sorge’s death and again on the day he died.

“Given the potentially dangerous nature of their business, construction companies and their managers have an absolute responsibility to ensure that their work sites are safe and secure,” said Attorney General JenniferGranholm

  • Hey, don’t believe everything you read in the (daily) newspaper.

The folks at Macatawa Bank Corp. spent the latter part of last week fending off speculation that the Holland-based bank was the acquisition target of Bank One Corp.

Like most rumor-mongering, this puts Macatawa Bank, which has grown rapidly since its 1997 founding and doubled earnings in the third quarter, in a terribly awkward position. No matter what executives say, they’re merely reacting to a rumor and fanning the flames, whether through denial or confirmation.

Bank President Phil Koning says the bank simply won’t respond or comment on rumors. He then offered this: “Our board has consistently felt it’s in the best interests of shareholders, customers, employees and communities that we remain independent.”           

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