04 April 2009

Spectrum Health Part Of Recent Trend Of Hospital Consolidation

As Originally Posted at MLive

GRAND RAPIDS -- Health care experts say news Spectrum Health is exploring an affiliation with a Petoskey-based hospital is part of a 20-year trend likely to continue.

"Back in the 1980s, we had over 200 hospitals in the state of Michigan and virtually all were independent organizations," said Brian Peters, executive vice president of the Michigan Health and Hospital Association.

Brian Peters (far left) says hospital consolidation likely to continue in Michigan

"Now, we have 144 and most of them are part of a larger system, either through outright ownership or through a loose affiliation," he said. "We think we'll see that intensify over the next 20 years."

On Thursday, Spectrum Health officials announced being in formal talks to partner with Petoskey-based Northern Michigan Regional Health System.

Spectrum runs seven hospitals, more than 140 service sites and Priority Health, a 500,000-member health insurance company. Northern Michigan provides care across 22 counties, operates three hospitals, a nursing home and rehabilitation center and clinics.

Officials from both systems said a partnership could lead to better quality care and access for patients, greater purchasing power and greater efficiencies for both organizations.

It is unclear if an affiliation could lead to job losses from consolidation.

Spectrum President and CEO Richard Breon and Northern Health President and CEO Thomas Mroczkowski said there are no expectations that would happen.

Affiliations "don't necessarily have to result in that at all," Breon said. "We're still hiring people and they're still hiring people."

Mroczkowski said it's hard to predict the future, but he believes there is potential to expand services.

"There may be opportunities ... to, in fact, increase the volume and amount of work that needs to be done," he said.

Health advocates say such an affiliation could have positive outcomes for both communities.

"There's not a need for everybody to do everything under the sun themselves," said Lody Zwarensteyn, president of the Alliance for Health, the area's health-planning agency.

"It's good to be in a league with people that can augment and strengthen what you do."

Peters said it bodes well for both locales that both systems are not-for-profit and run by volunteer boards comprised of community members who use the hospital's services.

"Sometimes with mergers and acquisitions in the for-profit sector, that decision-making process is all about the bottom line," Peters said.

No comments: