Published in Health Care
Mercy Health Muskegon will consolidate its inpatient care to a new $291 million tower at its campus on Sherman Boulevard and U.S. 31. Mercy Health Muskegon will consolidate its inpatient care to a new $291 million tower at its campus on Sherman Boulevard and U.S. 31. PHOTO: MARK SANCHEZ

Amid $291 million expansion project, Mercy Health Muskegon focuses on efficiencies

BY Sunday, November 11, 2018 07:34pm

Health system weighs future of Hackley campus

MUSKEGON — As the first phase of a $291 million expansion and renovation project at the Mercy Hospital campus begins to open, Mercy Health wants to start gathering ideas for the future of the Hackley Hospital campus a few miles away.

Mercy Health Muskegon plans to begin conducting a survey using an outside firm to gauge opinions on what should happen with the Hackley campus. By the time Mercy Health Muskegon begins to consolidate inpatient care at the Mercy campus a year from now, “we’re hoping to have a good game plan for what’s the next phase” for Hackley, said President Gary Allore.

“We’re going to go to the community and try to get a feel for what would be the best use in our community,” Allore told MiBiz.

Under the expansion and renovation, Mercy Health plans in a year to consolidate inpatient care to the Mercy campus at Sherman Boulevard and U.S. 31.

The Hackley campus off Laketon Avenue would continue as the home of a 27-bed behavioral health unit, an emergency room that in the future could transition to a high-functioning urgent care center, and two medical office buildings with physician offices.

Ideas that have been tossed around on what should happen to the Hackley patient tower range from senior housing to demolition and creating green space or an urban garden, Allore said. Whatever ultimately occurs with the facility, “we want to make sure that is something that makes sense for Muskegon,” Allore said.

“There are a lot of different things and people have a lot of ideas. We want to do what’s right for Muskegon, but we want to make sure whatever goes in that space is something that’s sustainable,” he said. “If we turn it over to an organization, or whatever ends up being the use for that facility, it needs to be something that is sustainable long term.”

The community survey should go on for about six months.

For now, the health system intends to open the emergency room and 20 operating rooms on Nov. 19 at the new patient tower on the Mercy campus. Occupancy of the 267-bed inpatient tower begins in March 2019, coinciding with the start of renovations on older areas of the Mercy campus. Consolidation of inpatient care from Hackley will come in the fall of 2019.

Once fully open, the new patient tower and accompanying renovations at the Mercy campus will generate what Allore calls “significant” savings on annual operating costs. Utilities alone at the new patient tower will cost 10 percent to 15 percent less because of efficiencies gained from new systems.

“That’s the beauty of everything being brand new. You’re getting the latest version of everything,” said Lon Morrison, senior director of facilities services at Mercy Health.

Fixing processes

The project represents the culmination of 20 years of health care consolidation in Muskegon, a market that once had three inpatient hospitals before a series of mergers. The latest consolidation occurred 10 years ago with the merger of Hackley Hospital and Mercy General Health Partners.

Additional efficiencies from the project will come through the facility’s design and improvements in hundreds of processes used to provide care. In one small example, the hospital’s two CT scanners are based in the new emergency room, rather than in a different area of the hospital, avoiding the need to transport patients throughout the facility for an emergency CT scan.

Making changes in care processes formed an essential part of the planning for the new patient tower and emergency room, said Dr. Jerry Evans, chief of emergency medicine and medical director at Mercy Health Muskegon.

“You don’t build a building to make better processes. You fix your processes to a new building,” Evans said. “If you bring bad processes into a new building, that’s a bad thing.”

The biggest efficiency will come simply from no longer operating two hospital campuses in relative close proximity to each other and the staffing and equipment they require, Allore said. The resulting savings will enable the health system to direct capital investments elsewhere, he added.

“We can be a lot more efficient in our health care system if we’re not duplicating some of those services so we can invest back into equipment, facilities and people,” Allore said. “That’s how we expect to continue to grow, (investing) in some of our ambulatory facilities and making sure we’re in the right parts of our community.”

Evans cites examples in which patients requiring specialized care such as cardiology — a specialty at the Mercy campus — often were transferred from one campus to another.

“That’s great inefficiency in a lot of ways. It makes it more difficult in getting the right physician to the right place at the right time, and getting the patient to the right services they need,” Evans said of the existing two inpatient campuses.

Those inefficiencies go away once all inpatient services are consolidated in a year at the Mercy campus, he said.

Becoming a draw

Mercy Health Muskegon hopes the project will become a broader draw for patients from around the region, especially north and south along the Lake Michigan shoreline.

In particular, Allore believes the project will help Mercy Health retain more market share in Muskegon County and push further into neighboring Ottawa County, where the health system has been seeking greater penetration.

Mercy Health Muskegon most recently acquired a medical group from North Ottawa Community Health System in Grand Haven, and the two institutions also partner on medical services. Just this month, Mercy Health also opened a new outpatient and primary care center in Hudsonville in southern Ottawa County.

“We have a huge opportunity with this facility,” Allore said. “We have the opportunity to reach along the lakeshore.”

The Milwaukee office of HGA Architects and Engineers designed the new facility.  Lansing-based The Christman Co. is serving as the construction manager.

Mercy Health Muskegon so far has raised $10.6 million in a $12.5 million capital campaign to support the project. 

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