Construction, Economic Development, and Health Care

Mary Free Bed CEO: Growth good for patients, region

First of three expansion phases is already delivering results.

July 1, 2016
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Mary Free Bed
Mary Free Bed now boasts several gyms specialized to diagnosis. Courtesy Mary Free Bed

(As seen on WZZM TV 13) It’s been an exciting half-decade for Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital, which recently celebrated its 125th year. And the past 18 months have seen some of the most drastic changes and improvements to the campus in recent history.

With the completion of Phase One of Mary Free Bed’s $66.4-million expansion in March 2015, the hospital officially opened its six-story 270,000 square foot West Building, 235 Wealthy St. SE. It houses 119 acute-care hospital beds, a number of high-tech therapy gyms and parking space. Phase Two — renovation of the hospital’s main building — began shortly thereafter, but in the year since the West Building has opened, Mary Free Bed already has seen significant improvements in care.

“Demand continues to outstrip the supply of beds,” Mary Free Bed CEO Kent Riddle said. “And that’s good news, because it means that we can take care of more folks who need care, and the technology (in the new building) has really been used a lot.”

The West Building addition made Mary Free Bed the fifth-largest rehabilitation hospital in the country. Riddle said the technology at the new building is available at just a handful of rehab hospitals across the country — and likely none have the total package Mary Free Bed can provide.

The hospital now boasts several gyms specialized to diagnosis, including an electrical stimulation gym that can trigger muscles in paralyzed patients and a gym devoted to improving the gait of patients who have experienced paralysis of their limbs. The new building also is home to a quarter-mile of ambulation track.

“We really pushed the envelope on the technology side of what we can do there,” Riddle said. “I don’t know that many hospitals have the degree of technology that we have — some have pieces of what we have, but what we tried to do is rope all of it together.”

Phase Two is slated to be complete by September, with a grand opening of the renovated main building planned for early October. Currently operating with 92 acute rehab beds and 48 sub-acute beds, the hospital will add another 16 pediatric beds and 11 adult beds when the third floor of the main building reopens next month.

The renovation also will include a new pediatric unit and high acuity Intensive Care Unit, which could accept and treat patients from ICUs at other hospitals. Completion of the third phase, which involves renovations to Mary Free Bed’s professional building and the Inn at Mary Free Bed will begin shortly after Phase Two and is expected to be completed in 2017.

Riddle said much of the expansion and renovation draws on seeing what other top rehabilitation hospitals across the country had to offer. He noted that once the main building is renovated, representatives from 10 of the top 16 rehab hospitals in the nation will come to Mary Free Bed for a tour.

“We’re in an industry where almost everyone in rehabilitation is very open and sharing and collaborative,” Riddle said. “We don’t directly compete with each other, but it’s a very friendly kind of ‘coopetition’” — a mix of competition and cooperation.

Riddle said the expansion and renovation also was inspired by major expansions recently at Van Andel Institute, and he hopes Mary Free Bed’s improvements will inspire other hospitals in the area to continue pushing the envelope and foster the growth that has turned Grand Rapids into one of the nation’s top cities for the medical industry.

“I think the medical industry is a great part of the future of Grand Rapids, and I think it will continue,” Riddle said. “We’re just another one who’s doing it, after being energized by what’s going on with the Van Andel Institute. We really think big here, and (Mary Free Bed is) following suit and really hoping to lead.”

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