Sunset appeals state decision on Ottawa nursing home beds

April 19, 2009
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Sunset Association is appealing a state decision to reject its application for 24 nursing home beds in Ottawa County and instead award 25 beds to a rival nonprofit based in Illinois.

Steve Zuiderveen, administrator of Sunset Association’s Brookcrest nursing home in Grandville, blamed “clerical issues” for the Certificate of Need Commission’s rejection of the $5.6 million skilled nursing facility it hopes to build at its 50-acre Waterford Place site near Hudsonville.

“They found some clerical issues with the application that they felt disqualified the application from consideration,” Zuiderveen said. “We have been in discussions with them since then. We filed an appeal with the state on that.”

Representatives of Rest Haven Christian Services, of Tinley Park, Ill., which received CON approval for 25 nursing home beds in Ottawa County, declined to comment. Rest Haven operates the 153-bed Haven Park Christian Nursing Home in Zeeland.

Zuiderveen said with 90 days before an appeals hearing is required, Sunset, Rest Haven and CON staff may have time to strike a negotiated solution. Sunset and Rest Haven are both Christian Reformed organizations.

“We’ve been meeting with both parties and looking for a way to have them all be very happy,” added Lody Zwarensteyn, president of the Alliance for Health.

Larry Horvath, manager for the MDCH’s Certificate of Need evaluation section, said a hearing before an administrative law judge would be scheduled within 90 days. That judge would make a recommendation to the MDCH director, who would make the final decision. He said any negotiated settlement would also be subject to review under CON regulations.

According to its application, Rest Haven’s Park Place Inn of Hudsonville would be located at 5875 Balsam Drive and would be built to eventually accommodate as many as 50 beds. The $10.83 million project would include two 10-unit buildings that would share a common wall and a 30-unit building. Construction would total 38,000 square feet.

The CON Commission’s decision was a surprise in the wake of a positive recommendation for Sunset’s application from local health planning agency Alliance for Health.

When the Michigan Department of Community Health last year readjusted the number of nursing home beds allocated to each county, Ottawa County was one of the few areas in the state to gain enough beds to support an entirely new skilled nursing facility. It was the first time in decades that Ottawa County had been granted more nursing home beds.

North Ottawa Community Hospital last year received CON approval for a new 150-bed nursing home, leaving 25 beds available.

Sunset submitted two proposals into the CON process. One called for 24 nursing home beds at the Waterford Place site; the other is for the single remaining bed for the same location. However, under CON rules, a request for a single bed may actually qualify for as many as 20 beds.

Sunset had been interested in an additional 16 beds under the second request, to bring the proposed Waterford Rehab Center to a total of 40 beds. Zuiderveen said Sunset intended to remove 16 beds from Brookcrest and place them at Waterford. Brookcrest cannot expand at its current location in Grandville, and the MDCH has ruled that Kent County has too many nursing beds, he said.

Sunset’s strategy drew some criticism from members of the Alliance for Health’s Evaluation Board, who said the organization appeared to be “gaming the system.” The board gave its approval anyway.

Currently under construction at Waterford Place is an 84-unit, $26 million independent living building, which is expected to be completed in the fall. Zuiderveen said the building is 80 percent sold.

While Ottawa County’s allocation for nursing homes was boosted to 1,060, state regulators contend that other West Michigan counties already had too many nursing home beds. For Kent County, the recommendation is a 7 percent decline in the number of beds; for Muskegon County, a nearly 14 percent reduction; and for Kalamazoo County, a 4.5 percent reduction.

Rest Haven also owns several assisted and independent living facilities in Kent and Ottawa counties, according to its Web site. In addition to Haven Park, Michigan holdings include: Royal Atrium Inn, Royal Park Place, Royal Care Home Services and Emerald Meadows.

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