Zeeland Hospital Concept Expands

August 1, 2003
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ZEELAND — The new Zeeland Community Hospital campus proposed for just northeast of town could ultimately house more than a hospital.

In the long term, the new $36.1 million hospital may anchor a broader medical campus on the 36-acre site in the next decade or more, as Zeeland Community attracts a slew of complementary medical services and facilities by working collaboratively with other parties.

“We have a responsibility to the community to provide a full continuum of health care services,” hospital President Henry Veenstra. “This gives us a real opportunity.”

Zeeland Community Hospital, the smallest hospital in the region, last month began the regulatory process of securing state approval to develop and relocate to a new facility to replace its aging 57-bed hospital that’s inefficient, landlocked and provides little room to expand in order to keep up with rising patient volumes.

Envisioned is a 140,859-square-foot, three-story hospital at Chicago Drive and Washington Avenue. Veenstra says it’s a highly accessible and convenient site near I-196 and along boundaries of the City of Zeeland and Zeeland Township.

The site provides room for easy hospital expansion in the future and the long-term development of complementary facilities. At minimum, Zeeland Community needs to build some form of medical and physician offices to accompany the new hospital, Veenstra said.

A long-range facilities plan that accompanies the hospital’s application to the state conceptually identifies medical offices, senior or assisted living quarters, an outpatient medical center, and a wellness center as some of the possibilities for future development around the hospital.

“That site gives us a lot of flexibility in the long term as health care changes and the population grows,” said Veenstra, noting the hospital’s existing 8-acre location precludes any future expansion or adjacent development of complementary medical services

“If we have the capacity on this (new) site, we can provide opportunities for a lot of things,” he said. “We couldn’t even think of that before on this (the existing) site.”

Zeeland Community’s application for a certificate of need to proceed with the project is now pending before the Michigan Department of Community Health.

Based on a preliminary review of the CON application, Lody Zwarensteyn of the Alliance for Health in Grand Rapids sees nothing that would cause rejection of the project or difficulty in securing approval for the new hospital.

Zeeland Community Hospital is staying within its role as a primary-care provider within a market where it enjoys a high level of patient loyalty, Zwarensteyn said.

“They’re not aggrandizing anything,” he said. “They’re playing within their game and they’re doing what they do well.”

The Alliance for Health, as the region’s health care planning agency, reviews capital projects by hospitals and recommends approval or denial to the Department of Community Health. Zwarensteyn expects to hold a public hearing on Zeeland’s application in late August and for the Alliance’s CON Evaluation Board to offer a recommendation by the end of November.

Zeeland Community hopes to begin construction of the new hospital in June 2004 and has targeted occupancy for the summer of 2006. Financing for the project comes from the planned sale of $24.1 million in bonds, $9 million in cash and $3 million the hospital hopes to raise in an upcoming public capital campaign.

Once open, the new facility will enable Zeeland Community to expand and add new medical services as market demands dictate. The hospital also anticipates increasing its market share within its core market, as well as drawing more business from the rapidly growing communities in eastern Ottawa County, Georgetown Township and Hudsonville among them.

The new hospital will generate significant operating efficiencies for Zeeland Community. Total annual operating costs are projected at less than the existing facility, the hospital stated in its CON application.               

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