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‘Game-changer’ partnership to bring new open-heart surgery program to West Michigan COURTESY PHOTO

‘Game-changer’ partnership to bring new open-heart surgery program to West Michigan

BY Tuesday, April 06, 2021 12:14pm

Metro Health-University Michigan Health plans to launch open-heart surgery within a year through a new partnership with Mercy Health.

Plans for the Cardiovascular Network of West Michigan came together as Metro Health sought state certificate-of-need (CON) approval to perform heart surgery at Metro Health Hospital in suburban Wyoming. The state approved the CON request in late March, enabling Metro Health to prepare launching a competing open-heart surgery program in Grand Rapids.

The Cardiovascular Network of West Michigan would consist of Metro Health; Michigan Medicine, the University of Michigan’s academic medical center in Ann Arbor; Mercy Health Saint Mary’s in Grand Rapids; and Mercy Health Muskegon.

The CON approval enables Metro Health to bring a second open-heart surgery program to Grand Rapids that competes with Spectrum Health, which has one of the largest programs in the state.

“This is a significant development for West Michigan,” Metro Health CEO Peter Hahn told MiBiz this morning. “In competition and collaboration, the ultimate winners are patients.”

The partnership with the Cardiovascular Network of West Michigan will create “truly a world-class cardiovascular program” that’s “going to be a game-changer,” Hahn said.

The partnership through a joint operating agreement will allow the three health systems to share expertise and medical staff. The Cardiovascular Network of West Michigan will essentially run and oversee heart surgery programs at Metro Health and Mercy Health, Hahn said..

In West Michigan, open-heart surgery is now performed at Spectrum Health in downtown Grand Rapids and Mercy Health Muskegon, plus in Southwest Michigan at Ascension Borgess Hospital and Bronson Methodist Hospital in Kalamazoo, and in St. Joseph at Spectrum Health Lakeland Hospital.

“Mercy Health’s partnership with Metro Health – University of Michigan and Michigan Medicine builds upon our unified strengths to provide the highest quality, innovative and comprehensive cardiovascular care throughout west Michigan,” said Gary Allore, president of Mercy Health Muskegon, which for years has staffed its open-heart program with surgeons from Michigan Medicine.

Hahn estimates that Metro Health, which had steadily built cardiovascular care for years before pursuing approval to do open-heart surgery, refers about 200 cardiac patients annually for heart surgery, mostly to Spectrum Health.

“That is probably an underestimation because there were patients that didn’t come to us because we didn’t have open heart capabilities at the time,” he said.

The partnership also keeps Metro Health and Mercy Health from competition for heart surgery patients. The two instead will operate a joint program that “will be site agnostic,” Hahn said.

Partnering through the Cardiovascular Network of West Michigan also enabled Metro Health to meet volume standards within Michigan’s CON regulations, Hahn said.

“We also felt strongly talking with them that Grand Rapids really needed a second program,” he said. “A second program that leverages Michigan Medicine, we could create truly a world-beater that in five to 10 years our competition is not going to be Spectrum or Bronson, it’s going to be Mayo Clinic or Cleveland Clinic. That’s what we’re envisioning, and we knew that we could do that together better than apart.”

In its application to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, Metro Health projected doing 311 heart surgeries annually that would include coronary artery bypass, cardiac valve repair or replacement, and repairing birth defects of the heart.

The Cardiovascular Network of West Michigan is the second major partnership between Metro Health and Mercy Health. The two systems previously formed a similar venture, the Cancer Network of West Michigan, last year for oncology.

As of 2019, the most recent year for which data is available, Spectrum Health operated the second-largest open-heart program in the state at the Meijer Heart Center in downtown. The University of Michigan operates the largest program in Ann Arbor.

According to state data, the University of Michigan performed 1,736 heart surgeries in 2019, followed by Spectrum Health with 1,247 and Mercy Health Muskegon with 331.

“The safety and quality of care of heart surgery patients in West Michigan is a primary concern at Spectrum Health. The community and Spectrum Health have committed significant resources to establish the Meijer Heart Center as a regional asset. As a result, we have dedicated ourselves to recruiting nationally recognized clinical experts and establishing one of the highest quality heart programs in the country,” Spectrum Health said in a statement to MiBiz. “Any new heart services in our region should be focused on quality tied to volumes as many studies have established that a high volume of procedures is essential to achieving high quality outcomes and controlling costs. Spectrum Health’s cardiovascular team performs more (coronary artery bypass grafting) surgeries than any other facility in Michigan, which contributes substantially to our ability to keep quality high and costs affordable.”

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