Local Practice Has Big Impact on Cancer Care

July 4, 2008
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GRAND RAPIDS — Since its inception in the late 1970s, Cancer and Hematology Centers of Western Michigan has become Michigan’s largest medical oncology practice and an important influence in cancer care within a wide radius of Grand Rapids.

From Hastings to Cadillac, CHCWM provides chemotherapy services to about 6,000 new patients each year, Executive Director Stuart Genschaw said. The practice, which includes 18 physicians and a total of 250 employees, is relocating outpatient clinical services from its main office in Cascade Township to Spectrum Health’s Lemmen-Holton Cancer Pavilion. From there, medical oncologists radiate out to eight other locations, including Saint Mary’s Health Care’s Lacks Cancer Center, the Johnson Family Center for Cancer Care in Muskegon and the Cancer Center at Metro Health Village.

“Not every clinic is full-time, but we are trying to bring the technology and care out to the communities instead of patients having to travel to our main facilities,” Genschaw said. “We try to work with all the hospitals and try to meet their needs.”

CHCWM is led by its president, Dr. Mark Campbell, whose vision for consolidated, patient-friendly cancer services has shaped the practice’s expansion as well as the cancer centers opening in West Michigan during this decade. As insurers began to demand that chemotherapy and radiation treatment be delivered on a cheaper, outpatient basis, cancer care became more fragmented, Campbell explained. The new cancer centers attempt to bring those services under a single roof to gain efficiencies both for providers and for patients, he said.

“We’ve built the brick and the mortar, but now it’s the people and the programs that have to come together,” Campbell said. “That will, honestly, take a few years yet. We’re not all there today.”

“They are very forward thinking. They are a model: Everybody kind of watches to see what they’re doing,” said Mary Malloy, executive director of the Michigan Society of Hematology and Oncology. “They do grasp that, for the health of patients, they’ve got to be economically viable, and they don’t apologize for that.”

Despite constant downward pressure on reimbursements from insurers, chemotherapy requires highly trained nurses and specialized laboratory services, Malloy said. In addition, CHCWM offers counseling from social workers and psychologists, as well as a genetics program, even though those services are not always eligible for coverage by insurance or government programs, Genschaw said.

CHCWM also is gaining a reputation for management of cancer centers, said Genschaw, who holds both a master’s degree in health care and a master’s in business administration.

“A big aspect is patient flow and efficiency,” he said. “We manage it by making sure patient flow is what we want it to be: electronic health records, the financial aspect, making sure we’re properly billing, also managing the IT infrastructure. Every hospital wants different things.”

While the cancer center is under the ownership of Spectrum Health, which, as a nonprofit, is tax-exempt, the law allows property and personal tax collection from space inside that is devoted to a for-profit enterprise.

According to a city of Grand Rapids memorandum regarding a personal property tax break for the project, the build-out for CHCWM’s 24,000 square feet in the Lemmen-Holton Cancer Pavilion is expected to be $3 million, while personal property was estimated at $1.1 million. The tax break’s value to the city is $2,300 per year for 12 years, or $28,000.

New taxes generated by build-out were estimated at $9,500 per year for 12 years, or $114,000. New city income tax revenue to be generated by CHCWM employees was tagged at $96,000 per year, or $1.15 million over the life of the 12-year tax abatement.

“To make the decision to go downtown was a very big decision,” Genschaw said. “We’re going to add new equipment. We’re expanding lab equipment, adding new pumps. It’s a very strong capital investment for us. The option of a tax break helped us in our decision-making.”

He said initial plans are to add eight to 10 employees with the move. Genschaw said CHCWM’s administrative staff will remain at its 710 Kenmore SE office, which probably will see a small amount of remodeling. 

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