GRAND HAVEN — A $50 million medical facility that Spectrum Health and Holland Hospital planned to develop in the Grand Haven area has drawn objections from community officials.
Last week, the City Council in Grand Haven decided to formally oppose a rezoning request sought by Health Pointe Inc., the joint venture between Spectrum Health and Holland Hospital. The project proposal includes the development of a 120,000-square-foot medical facility in Grand Haven Township, which neighbors the city.
The main concern among city leaders is how Health Pointe will affect North Ottawa Community Health System.
Health Pointe “is anything but a typical development project,” according to a letter the Grand Haven City Council members planned to send to their counterparts in Grand Haven Township.
The worry is that Health Pointe will duplicate and dilute market share for key medical services where hospitals tend to make their money, such as medical imaging and outpatient surgery. That would then weaken North Ottawa’s ability to sustain costly services such as a 24-hour emergency room and a birthing unit.
“If you skim off the things that really pay, those other services are not going to be able to be supported by what’s left,” said Grand Haven Mayor Geri McCaleb. “We’re very concerned … that there’s a possibility that we’re going to lose some of these services.
“How do we best fit our community needs? Spectrum is a big part of that picture. But we don’t want to lose what we have.”
One factor at play is the North Ottawa Community Health System’s unique corporate governance structure. Up until 20 years ago, the health system was owned and operated by a public authority. In 1996, North Ottawa converted to a private nonprofit corporation with representatives from six local municipalities and townships who appoint the remaining 11-member governing board.
The city, through a resolution that was adopted unanimously, also asks the township not to act on the project until an independent study is conducted on traffic impacts to nearby roads. Grand Haven wants to ensure that the developer “accepts responsibility for potential impacts on our local infrastructure by properly defining the need for improvements and agreeing to fully finance those improvements.”
Proposed for a 12-acre site on the north end of Grand Haven Township, just outside of the city and next to a Meijer Inc. store, Health Pointe would house primary-care medical practices, specialty physicians, an urgent care center and laboratory services. It also would offer medical imaging such as MRI and CT scans.
Health Pointe would also feature a $12.1 million outpatient surgical center that is presently undergoing state certificate-of-need review.
The campus would consolidate the Spectrum Health Medical Group physician practices and medical services into a single location and give Holland Hospital a physical presence in northwestern Ottawa County for the first time.
Executives from Spectrum Health and Holland Hospital bill Health Pointe as serving their existing patient volumes in northwest Ottawa County. Spectrum Health already has a sizeable physician base in the Grand Haven-Spring Lake area that serves more than 20,000 patients. Similarly, Holland Hospital claims it’s been serving a growing number of patients in recent years from the Grand Haven area.
Health Pointe would provide 80 percent of what local patients need at one, convenient location, according to Dr. David Ottenbaker, a family physician and associate chief medical officer at Spectrum Health Medical Group, who spoke during a March 14 township board meeting. The new medical campus would keep those patients in the Grand Haven area and would not hurt North Ottawa, he said.
“Our goal is to provide better access,” Ottenbaker said. “We believe that choice is what we give in our facility. There remains more than adequate enough demand for the services that North Ottawa provides today to continue to take care of the patients that they take care of.”
North Ottawa has mounted opposition to the project, although it is not “asserting that Spectrum Health or its physicians should not be here,” said Chief Communications Officer Jen Van Skiver.
“The challenge the community is facing is this project’s scope and intent (with) the building, the urgent care, the operating rooms, the advanced diagnostics. (They’re) all duplicative services, and all unnecessary expenses passed on to the patient,” Van Skiver said. “That’s not good for employers. It’s not a collaborative approach. And it’s too expensive for this community. The community would be better served by Spectrum and Holland right-sizing its presence into an actual medical office setting, versus one that’s nearly a duplicative hospital.”
McCaleb, the mayor of Grand Haven, agrees with the calls by project opponents that Grand Haven Township should require the Health Pointe partners to analyze on how the project will affect the local health care market and North Ottawa as part of the zoning review process.
“This isn’t like building a gas station or building another McDonald’s. There’s too much at stake and we need to talk about this,” she said. “We’re all in this together, and I’m not sure all of the information about the implications for our local hospital has really been brought out maybe the way it should be. I don’t think people are really thinking about that.”
Township trustees, however, have said they are looking at the Health Pointe project in terms of zoning and land use, and will not get into the issue of competition in the local health care market.
“We all like choices,” Mike Hutchins, a trustee on the Grand Haven Township Board, said during the March 14 meeting.
Township trustees that night voted to delay action on the Health Pointe zoning request so architects could alter the design to meet the zoning code and to work on an agreement for a payment lieu of taxes to cover the cost of public services if the facility were to become tax-exempt.
The township board can consider the project again when it meets again March 28.