Changes in health care You can bank on it

June 18, 2012
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Remember when the banking industry went through its eat-or-be-eaten stage? Big banks gobbled up (somewhat) little ones, and everyone — especially the big banks — seemed to think this was progress.

And where are we today? Ah, those bygone eras … when decisions were actually made in Grand Rapids.

No one is saying the health care industry is following suit, but there are some curious alliances forming. First, the area’s big dog — Spectrum Health — got hold of several smaller institutions, from Zeeland to Reed City and all points in between, and pulled them into its ever-widening fold.

In response, Mary Free Bed jilted Spectrum’s overtures and aligned with Chicago Rehabilitation Institute. Metro joined hands with the University of Michigan health system, and Trinity Health got a piece of that, too.

Now, Lansing’s Sparrow Hospital is cozying up to the Mayo Clinic. Mayo Clinic!

According to the Detroit Free Press, Sparrow will be the first health system in Michigan and one of five in the U.S. chosen to be in the Mayo network.

The collaboration means patients in mid-Michigan will have access to top-ranked doctors and services in the Mayo system. Their doctors will consult Mayo doctors electronically and have access to Mayo’s clinical database of best practices.

One doctor who won’t be doing any more consulting for Spectrum is David Duffey, who resigned his positions as director of the pediatric hospitalist program and director of quality, safety and clinical innovation for Spectrum Health Medical Group.

The eight-year Spectrum veteran will become chief medical officer at Metro Health.

Hmmm, lots of changes in health. Let’s hope West Michigan retains its local control.

One swipe

Eating more fruits and vegetables just got easier for clients of the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children. One swipe of a WIC Electronic Benefits Transfer card can be used to purchase fresh fruits and vegetables at participating farmers markets this summer.

The Michigan Department of Community Health WIC Division selected the Kent County Health Department as a pilot for the new project, allowing WIC participants to use their cash value benefits at participating farmers markets. Previously, they needed a coupon to make purchases there.

“Employees of the KCHD WIC office were instrumental in our selection as the sole pilot agency for this program, thanks to past successes in piloting and initiating new programs and changes, such as MI-WIC and EBT,” said Cathy Raevsky, administrative health officer for the Kent County Health Department.

“It’s an honor to be the first in the nation with this great program.”

The pilot project runs through Oct. 31. During 2011, the KCHD WIC program issued more than $1.955 million in cash value benefits to participants. “This is money that goes back into our communities — to our farmers, their employees and their families,” Raevsky added.

In addition, the program will pilot an enhancement to the successful WIC Project FRESH program, in which participants will receive Project FRESH benefits electronically via their EBT card. In the past, they were given booklets containing 10 coupons worth $2 each, which can only be spent to purchase fresh, locally grown fruits and vegetables.

In addition to receiving Project FRESH benefits electronically, those participating will receive $30, an increase from $20 last year. During the 2011 Project FRESH season, the KCHD WIC program provided $12,720 worth of coupon vouchers to eligible WIC participants.

Fresh out

On June 12, the U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services announced it reached enough petitions to fill the FY2013 H-1B visa quota. If you snoozed, too late.

This means that the USCIS will not accept any new H-1B petitions for an Oct. 1 start date of employment, and that, unless Congress decides to increase the cap, there are no new H-1B visas available until FY2014, according to Karen Phillippi, immigration services business manager at Miller, Canfield, Paddock and Stone PLC.

As a reminder, the H-1B cap does not apply to extensions of H-1B status, changes of employer when the foreign national already holds H-1B status, or entities that are considered cap-exempt.

Point totals

Not to be outdone by David Letterman, Grand Rapids Mayor George Heartwell presented a Top 10 List of his own last week. The mayor identified the top 10 businesses that have redeemed the most My GR City Points the city awards for recycling efforts.

The top 10, starting with No. 1, were: Graydon’s Crossing, Derby Station, Southland Auto Wash, Brann’s Sizzling Steaks & Sports Grill, The Rapids, The Funky Budda Yoga Hothouse (“Who knew?” said Heartwell), Brewery Vivant, the Beanilla Trading Co., Logan’s Alley and the Twisted Rooster.

Heartwell said Graydon’s Crossing had redeemed 522 city points through the end of April to claim the top spot.

“We trust (the recycling program) is working for an increasing ridership (on The Rapid) and for businesses,” said Heartwell. “Keep up the good work.”

Sustainable effort

Mayor Heartwell also found himself at the top of a list last week, when it was announced that he and Denny Doyle, mayor of Beaverton, Ore., were selected as the nation’s top winners in the 2012 Mayors’ Climate Protection Awards, an initiative of the U.S. Conference of Mayors.

The mayor could not attend the ceremony in Orlando, so Haris Alibasic, director of the city’s Office of Energy and Sustainability, accepted on his behalf.

“This award is another affirmation of our great community-wide commitment to sustainability,” Alibasic said.

“Once again Grand Rapids has been recognized for its leadership in sustainability and for its commitment to environmental, economic and social stewardship.”

Cities both large and small were eligible for the honor, and the fact that GR was recognized for its sustainability plan with more than 200 very specific economic, environmental and social targets caught the attention of some larger cities.

“Mayor Heartwell and Mayor Doyle have done an outstanding job developing climate protection programs that will serve as models for the rest of the country,” said Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors.

“These awards prove that cities large and small are making extra efforts to launch innovative programs to protect our environment.”

For his part, Heartwell can talk the talk, too. He released a statement at the conference that must have turned more than a few heads.

“The city of Grand Rapids, Michigan, is a proven leader in sustainability planning with a focus on reducing the negative impact of greenhouse gas emissions through a variety of measures such as energy efficiency, renewable energy and conservation efforts. We are proud to receive this national recognition from the U.S. Conference of Mayors. Our goal is to continue to work on creating an equitable community with economic opportunities for all and protecting the environment for current and future generations.”

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