Pennock Joins Building Frenzy

March 31, 2008
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Sheryl Lewis Blake, CEO of Hastings’ Pennock Hospital, understands the crucial role the organization occupies in Barry County, not only in providing health services but also in supporting the local economy.

In December, the 88-bed community hospital announced plans to build a $60 million facility at M-43 and M-37, less than two miles from its location in Hastings.

“We’re Barry County’s second-largest employer, and we have nearly 700 colleagues,” Blake said. “We have an obligation to retain, to protect and grow their jobs in order to maximize our impact on the community and kind of our overall economic environment. I think it’ll be a real boost to the county.”

When Blake joined the organization in July, the board of trustees was already well along in its location study. Financially, the hospital took in $94.3 million in revenues for the tax year ending in September 2006, and spent nearly the same amount, according to an IRS document. But a drop in admissions prompted a 10 percent, across-the-board cut in spending, “Health Executive” reported a year ago.

Blake said she is convinced that the current hospital, parts of which go back 85 years, just isn’t a good candidate for remodeling. It won’t support the infrastructure needed for a modern hospital, she said.

While no final decisions have been made, the current facility is likely to be used for programs involving wellness and the elderly, Blake said.  

“We are a committed steward of our community’s resources,” she said. “The hospital recognizes its responsibility to remain both competitive and financially strong in order to continue our contribution to the overall economic well-being of our region. One of the results or outcomes of the master facility planning process showed us it wasn’t really possible to obtain optimal operating efficiency by remodeling or expanding.”

Blake said Pennock department heads are visiting hospitals elsewhere to discover the most “progressive and flexible” ideas for designs and equipment, so that the new hospital, expected to open in 2012, will be designed for the future as well as today.

“We are a community hospital. We don’t have tertiary services, and in our new facilities, we aren’t planning a tertiary level of service,” said Blake, who oversaw a $30 million construction project at her previous job in Goshen, Ind. “We are still planning to grow our services that are there.” HQX

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