Construction, Health Care, and Real Estate

Mary Free Bed cuts the ribbon on $42M rehabilitation hospital

February 13, 2015
Text Size:
Mary Free Bed opening
Tim Pietryga, vice president for advancement at Mary Free Bed, speaks during the opening of the $42 million hospital. Photo by Rachel Weick

The Grand Rapids hospital focused on rehabilitative care marked a milestone in its expansion and renovation project with a ceremony celebrating the completion of a $42 million state-of-the-art facility.

Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital held a ribbon-cutting ceremony Feb. 9 at 235 Wealthy St. SE to celebrate the completion of its new $42 million facility, the first phase of an overall $66.4 million expansion and renovation project.

Kent Riddle, chief executive officer and president at Mary Free Bed, said the ribbon-cutting marks a milestone on the hospital’s transformative path, which began in an upstairs room years ago with a risky vote to remain independent and specialized.

“Four years ago, Mary Free Bed’s very existence was in peril. There is no question Mary Free Bed provided the best care, with the state’s best reputation; it was losing its status as a national leader that it once was,” said Riddle.

“After four years of unprecedented growth … Mary Free Bed is in full bloom. All but one of those acute-care hospitals that were once our competitors four years ago are now our partners.”

Kim Ridings, president of Mary Free Bed Guild, said during the ribbon-cutting ceremony the combination of an aging population and health care reform increases the need for rehabilitation.

“Our specialization and focus on rehabilitation at Mary Free Bed enables patients to achieve, at times, miraculous results. Another vital ingredient in their success is the motivation they receive from our physicians and staff,” said Ridings. “Today we celebrate our new building and the opportunity to provide extraordinary hope and freedom through rehabilitation.”

The 270,000-square-foot, six-story building spans 360 feet from north to south and includes 190,000 square feet of occupied space and an additional 80,000 square feet for parking.

With 119 acute level and 48 sub-acute level inpatient beds, and approximately four times the amount of therapy space as the existing facility constructed in 1976, the expansion makes Mary Free Bed the fifth-largest rehabilitation hospital in the country, according to a press release.

“This system, this flagship, and our new thrust in research and education, this trajectory ends with one simple goal, and it is what we are all about,” said Riddle. “It is to return our fellow humans to the most function, the most hope, the most freedom, the most transformation from disability to ability, the most independence, and to do it faster than anybody else can. That is what this facility is designed to do; that is what is so exciting.”

George Heartwell, mayor of Grand Rapids, said the history of the Mary Free Bed organization and the history of the city are intertwined in many ways, and the success of each has contributed to the success of the other.

“It is amazing what they do. It is amazing the facility available to us in this community for outpatient rehabilitation and the inpatient services in this hospital,” said Heartwell. “We are incredibly fortunate to have Mary Free Bed here in Grand Rapids, and the kind of expertise, the kindness that is shown by Mary Free Bed staff, makes this a shining star in a bright constellation of Grand Rapids.”

With a goal of creating a healing environment for patients and incorporating state-of-the-art technology to assist in rehabilitation, the new hospital includes: two high-tech ceiling-mounted lifts for patients who are learning to walk again; 48 private rooms for patients; multiple therapy gyms on each floor; and decentralized nursing and therapy to increase time spent with patients.

The incorporation of technology will facilitate better patient outcomes, and staff members are already expressing their excitement to work with patients in the new hospital, according to Riddle.

“Ultimately, patients should have more functional gain, whether it is swallowing, moving, thinking or cognitive. All of it is supported by a facility and the integrated equipment that drives more function, so when they leave here they are better off than anywhere else,” said Riddle.

“What I am hearing from our staff who are training in the space — I am really pleased to hear how excited they are. … It is truly state-of-the-art in the world for rehabilitation.”

The facility also features a 1,800-square-foot solarium, an accessible rooftop terrace, glass art designed and produced by Jerry Catania, an artist from Benton Harbor, and framed artwork created by disabled artists who participated in the 32 Years of Mary Free Bed Guild Art Exhibit.

With the completion of the new building, Mary Free Bed is introducing customized rehabilitation programs for debilitated patients, those with Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis and cardiac or pulmonary conditions, according to the press release. The sixth floor of the new hospital will remain empty to accommodate future growth.

“We have more requests to use that space than there is space already,” said Riddle. “We are consciously trying to hold off, to vet that, since we only have one floor left.”

Riddle anticipates roughly two more years of renovation to existing buildings after the completion of the new hospital. Occupancy is anticipated for mid-to-late March, and the $24.4 million renovation project is expected to be completed in spring 2017.

The overall expansion and renovation project will generate more than 500 onsite construction jobs, with an additional 350 positions created in skilled nursing, therapy, information technology and administration.

Once the next phase of campus renovations is completed, Riddle said there will be no facility like it in the entire field of rehabilitative medicine, with the best technology, highest level of service and compassionate culture of caring.

“We want to be known for one thing: that we push and we pull, and we inspire every patient to a higher level of function and ability than anywhere or anyone else,” said Riddle.

“The credit goes to a guild of amazing women and three boards willing to take an entrepreneurial risk. … Most importantly, the thanks goes to friends and foundations that have sacrificed and reached into their own pockets to help this transformation take hold.”

Recent Articles by Rachel Weick

Editor's Picks

Comments powered by Disqus