By Joanne Bailey-Boorsma
When Metro Health moved to Wyoming about nine years ago, it was tasked with not being just a boutique hospital in a suburban community, but a catalysis to bring quality care to not only its immediate community of Wyoming but the West Michigan region. With Metro Health’s affiliation with the University of Michigan Health System, Metro Health President and Chief Executive Officer Michael Faas believes the hospital has achieved that.
“We were faced with trying to clinically integrate and grow while at the same time maintain services and infrastructure that we have,” Faas said during a recent interview about the new affiliation between Metro Health and U-M. “There is having more importance to the community, more market share, more money and new buildings and as these issues kept circling we knew that we needed to get a lot bigger and more significant for some of these things to happen.”
To achieve this, according to Faas, Metro Health started exploring the possibility of a partnership with another institution. Metro Health officials first went to non-profit U-M as the hospital had formed a relationship with U-M providing radiation oncology. However, Metro Health ended up courting a few other possibilities including the for-profit Tennessee-based Community Health Systems. The deal with Community Health Systems did not happen and Metro Health officials began to look at other possibilities.
“We knew one day it could happen,” Faas said of Metro Health’s affiliation with U-M. “We had favored that one the most because we felt it was the best match. Good things came to fruition for all the right reasons.”
In fact the affiliation between U-M and Metro Health is not that unusual especially as hospital officials deal with the many challenges in health care from reform efforts to becoming more clinically integrated. Just recently, Grinnell Regional Medical Center in Toledo announced negotiations with UnityPoint Health Des Moines and University of Iowa Health Care. Several hospitals in the Upper Peninsula have similar partnerships.
While Wyoming City officials have not had any meetings with Metro Health or U-M on the affiliation, City Manager Curtis Holt said he sees it being a great thing for the community, especially since health care is one of the fastest growing industries.
“I have said ever since Metro Health came to Wyoming that it is a great addition to the City of Wyoming,” Holt said. “They do a great job. I think they are beneficial to our community and to our residents which is the most important thing.”
Holt said he is cautious over the dollar value that the new affiliation will bring to the city since it is a non-profit venture and collection from this type of development is limited. The city could benefit from the spin off ventures such as restaurants, stores, commercial businesses and other small industries that develop from the affiliation, he said, adding that he is looking forward to meeting with Metro Health officials in the coming weeks to discuss Metro Health/U-M’s plans for the future.
“I believe that [Metro Health] has been so focused on getting this affiliation in place, and now that it is, they can start to focus on how they are going to make a difference in the community,” Holt said.
Which is exactly correct according to Faas. Now that the affiliation is in place, plans will begin to move forward on various projects which will include the building up of the Metro Health Village. However, the biggest change area residents will see is that for the first time in awhile, there will be a real choice in health care services in West Michigan, Faas said.
“U-M has been providing health care to all the residents of Michigan for more than a century,” Faas said. “Now with this relationship with Metro Health, U-M health care is more accessible, more convenient, and less expensive then everyone driving to Ann Arbor.”