Spectrum makes noise about bone marrow transplant plan

January 4, 2009
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Spectrum Health is hoping to persuade the Michigan Department of Community Health that it needs a bone marrow transplant program for adults.

Grand Rapids’ largest health system intends to approach the Certificate of Need Commission next week and ask it to alter standards that currently limit adult bone marrow transplants to Detroit Medical Center, Henry Ford Hospital and the University of Michigan Hospital, all in southeastern Michigan.

Bruce Rossman, spokesman for Spectrum Health, said the 25- to 40-day stay required for the procedure puts a hardship on West Michigan families that must travel across the state or to Chicago. “There is also a financial cost to insurance companies and employers,” Rossman said.

West Michigan’s population also is growing faster than in southeast Michigan, Rossman argued. “We believe we do a much better job of providing high-quality health care at a lower cost here in Grand Rapids than on the east side of the state,” he added. “We believe it’s logical that there be a program here.”

Spectrum Health already provides bone marrow transplants for children at the Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital. The initial proposal would set aside five beds at Butterworth Hospital for adult procedures.

Playing the name game

Also at Spectrum Health, parents are slapping your future employees in the class of 2027 with monikers biblical, municipal and, for girls, at least, names beginning with vowels. Nearly 8,000 children entered the world at Butterworth Hospital in Grand Rapids last year, the busiest stork business in Michigan.

Hospital observers report that the most popular boys’ names in 2008 were, in reverse order: William, Elijah, Samuel, Benjamin, Owen, Noah, Caleb, Jayden, Jacob and, drum roll, please, number one: Ethan.

For girls, top names were, also in reverse order: Avery, Abigail, Alexis, Addison, Madison, Sophia, Emma, Emily, Olivia and (another drum roll, please) number one: Ava.

What, no Barack or Michelle? What about Tripp? Now that would be a mavricky move.

North Monroe update

The North Monroe business District is in line for some special type of office space in the near future (see story page 14), but how are other’s faring in the sector?

Ron Hillary of AcraGraphics, Inc. told fellow members of the Monroe North Business Association recently that his printing business slowed last month after the elections, but things were better than great for the first 10 months of the year. In fact, Hillary said Acra will have a record year. “Next year looks a little iffy, though,” he said.

Mary Hogerheide, who owns Auto Fixit Body Shop with her husband Mark, said traffic to her shop has improved since the November election. “The snow and ice has helped, plus the (road) commission isn’t salting and plowing as much.” (See, there is a silver lining in every icy cloud.) She also said people seem more inclined to fix up their old cars than look for new ones.

Larry Nix of Williams & Works said the engineering and planning business was holding its own, but has slowed for the holiday season. Nix is hoping that the upcoming stimulus package that President-elect Barack Obama will unveil next month will send more work to the local industry.

Grand Rapids Spring & Stamping owner Jim Zawacki sees 2009 as being a tough year for manufacturing firms like his. “We should be doing $6 million a month and we’ll be lucky to get $3 million this month. January should be worse,” he said.

Despite less than glowing business projections for the new year, business owners in the district thought of others who likely have it tougher than they do. Beth Visser of TE Beckering said the business association collected and sent 64 holiday boxes to soldiers and troops stationed overseas this Christmas.

Another Fred for him

The Associated Press reported that Bruce A. Efird, who left Meijer Inc. last year as executive vice president of merchandising to become president of Memphis-based discount retailer Fred’s Inc., will add CEO to his title on Feb. 1.

Consulting in China

Exports aren't always one-way from China to the U.S. In a couple of months, West Michigan will be exporting Christopher Anbari to China.

Anbari is the president/CEO/guru of Result Global Ltd. of North America, a consulting firm based in Grandville that he founded 25 years ago to help businesses reinvent themselves.

In March he will be in China to talk to three different audiences of 1,500 people each; business owners and executives who are clients of BSD, a Chinese business management consulting firm.

Anbari said the largest management consulting firms from America such as PricewaterhouseCoopers, McKinsey, and Booz Allen Hamilton already have a foothold in China, but they only focus on the largest companies there. BSD is partnering with Result Global and will be licensing its copyrighted STAR employee engagement program for training at many mid-size Chinese companies.

Wrong kind of rollback

Desperate to lure consumers during the current economic downturn, car dealers are offering extensive markdowns and rebates.

But in Michigan, some sellers aren’t just rolling back prices — they’re rolling back odometers.

According to a Capital News Service report, that’s the conclusion drawn by CARFAX Inc., a vehicle history company that cites an increase in odometer fraud in Michigan far higher than the national average.

Odometer fraud increased 135 percent in Michigan while increasing 57 percent nationwide over the last four years, said Chris Basso, media relations manager for the Virginia-based company.

“Unfortunately, times like this bring out the worst in people,” Basso said. “You really need to be on your guard now.”

Basso said the unscrupulous sales technique has hoodwinked both consumers and dealers.

“It’s con men selling cars on the Internet, on classified ads and on the side of the road,” he said. “Whether you’re a dealer or a consumer out buying a car, it’s imperative that you protect yourself.”

Southfield auto fraud lawyer Adam Taub said he’s currently representing a client he suspects bought a car with a tampered odometer.

“It’s absolutely ridiculous,” he said. “What I see all the time are people going in and buying cars that simply don’t work.”

Taub said his 21-year-old client bought her first car with an odometer reading of 8,400 miles, though it was 3 years old and already had its tires replaced. After finding mechanical problems, the owner sought legal advice, he said.

Taub said he suspects the car’s actual mileage is around 40,000.

“As far as Michigan goes, I see a lot of cases where it looks like there’s some sort of tampering with the odometer,” Taub said. “The resources that go into policing odometer fraud are pitiful, and at the federal level are even more pitiful.”

Federal law provides penalties of up to three years in prison for odometer tampering.

Rolling back the mileage became more difficult after digital odometers became industry standard. However, computer hardware sold on foreign Web sites enables sellers to “hack” into digital odometers, according to CARFAX.

In many cases, avoiding fraud just involves asking the right questions.

“Make sure the odometer matches the mileage written on the title,” said Tim Burns, public affairs director for the Better Business Bureau in Southfield. “That’s something you could easily overlook.”

Basso agrees, adding, “If you look at the mileage but there’s wear on the carpets and steering wheel, the simple act of asking can make the difference.”

He also recommends getting a mechanic to inspect the car, and getting a vehicle history report. Hundreds of dealerships throughout Michigan offer CARFAX vehicle history reports to customers for free. They also can be purchased for about $30.

The reports use vehicle identification numbers and past mileage records to gauge whether a car’s purported mileage is questionable.

Even so, some plaintiff’s lawyers complain that CARFAX reports aren’t extensive enough.

“CARFAX reports are dreadfully inadequate for showing odometer problems,” Taub said. “As the criminals get more sophisticated, it’s much more expensive to detect rollbacks.”

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