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Sunday, 05 February 2012 23:53

Mary Free Bed plans $48M expansion

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Mary Free Bed plans $48M expansion Courtesy photo
GRAND RAPIDS — Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital, just months after forming a statewide care network that’s already bringing more patients to Grand Rapids, plans to embark this year on an ambitious $48 million expansion and renovation.

Designed to accommodate growing patient volumes and consolidate care at a single location, the project would transition the 80-bed rehabilitation hospital to all private patient rooms and add new, larger therapy rooms. Plans include a new 114,660-square- foot facility on the west side of the Mary Free Bed campus and extensive renovations to the present 136,000-square-foot building that dates back to 1976, plus the possible opening of a 40-bed nursing home.

Mary Free Bed proceeds with the project at a time when it’s working to take its care model statewide. It hopes to draw increased patient referrals to Grand Rapids with the care network it formed last June after turning aside overtures to merge into Spectrum Health.

“We really put a stake in the ground when we decided to stay independent and pursue a growth path,” CEO Kent Riddle told MiBiz. “This is another major vote of confidence in our future.”

Mary Free Bed plans to issue an RFP soon for design work and hopes to begin construction this coming summer and have the new facility completed by late 2013. The project will require certificate-of-need approval from the Michigan Department of Community Health.

The Mary Free Bed Guild began discussing the project as part of a strategic planning process started shortly after the formation in mid-2011 of the Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Network, which seeks to partner with physicians, hospitals and other care providers around Michigan. The network allows Mary Free Bed to offer rehabilitation services to its partners and provides a new avenue for patient referrals to Grand Rapids.

The network presently includes Metro Health Hospital in Grand Rapids and skilled nursing centers such as Pilgrim Manor and Porter Hills. Mary Free Bed is in “deep talks” with seven potential new network members and is “on the cusp” of a few announcements, Riddle said.

Riddle credits the network’s formation in part with driving solid growth in the number of patients coming to Mary Free Bed from outside of its traditional Kent-Ottawa-Muskegon county service area.

Two years ago, about 15 percent of Mary Free Bed’s patients came from outside of the three-county region. That’s now at about 22 percent, and Riddle expects the rate to double or even triple within the next few years.

“We find our reach of referrals has been greater as our network continues to grow,” Riddle said.

The rehabilitation hospital is also generating growth by improving its capabilities and broadening its criteria to accept higher-acuity patients. In the past, for instance, a patient with a brain injury may not have qualified for rehab because he needed more time to recover in a critical-care setting and was not “quite ready for intensive therapy,” Riddle said. Mary Free Bed, as it expands its capabilities, is now able to accept those patients, he said.

“Now we’re saying, ‘Let’s treat them,’” Riddle said.

Opening a nursing home on the campus would provide rooms for patients transferring from an acute-care hospital who require that kind of care before beginning rehab, as well as for those who need nursing home care prior to returning home from Mary Free Bed.

The hospital has filed a separate CON application to open a 40-bed nursing home, which would “expand our continuum of care and better meet the needs of patients and their families,” Riddle said.

“It is one of the missing pieces we need to offer complete rehabilitation care,” he said.

In its previous fiscal year, Mary Free Bed served about 7,500 patients, 851 of which were inpatients. The hospital, with about two months to go, is trending to serve 1,000 inpatients in its 2012 fiscal year.

Anticipating that trend will continue in the years ahead, Mary Free Bed needs more space to accommodate growing patient volumes and to expand rehab care where needed, said Julie Ridenour, president of the Mary Free Bed Guild.

When Guild members began looking at volumes and projections, “there was never any hesitancy” about proceeding, Ridenour said.

“Our goal is to be on the top of the mind in the state of Michigan when people think of rehabilitative services,” she said. “It will allow us to be a rehabilitative provider for a range of services.”

Since opening the campus 36 years ago, Mary Free Bed has made “modest upgrades,” Ridenour said. The coming work is the first major renovation and expansion, she said.

“It’s time to update things a little bit,” Ridenour said.

Facing ever-tightening reimbursement payments from health plans and Medicaid and Medicare, the hospital also needs to generate operating efficiencies by transitioning to all private rooms and consolidating rehab operations under one roof. Outpatient care is now primarily done at a professional office building across the street.

The plan is to have all outpatient care move to the main campus and relocate administrators to the office building. Having all of its physicians and therapists in the same location should improve both the communication among staff and the continuity of care for patients, Riddle said.

“As we look forward, we have to be more efficient. Everybody in health care does,” Riddle said.

The expansion and renovation project, if approved by state regulators, would allow Mary Free Bed to expand clinically into more specialized rehabilitation. The rehab hospital is purchasing new equipment, for example, that treats stroke and spinal cord patients by simulating movement to regenerate neuron connections.

In expanding rehab services and planning the facility expansion, Mary Free Bed wants to offer more therapy “in a greater variety of settings with a greater variety of equipment.”

Read 3020 times Last modified on Sunday, 12 August 2012 21:39

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