MUSKEGON — Construction should begin within two weeks on one of the largest projects ever in Muskegon County.
The $271 million expansion and renovation at Mercy Health’s Sherman Avenue campus will consolidate inpatient care at a single hospital campus.
Once site preparation is done, a nine-story patient tower will begin rising by this fall on the south end of the Mercy Hospital campus at Sherman Boulevard and U.S. 31, marking the beginning of the end of more than two decades of consolidation in the Muskegon County Health care market.
“This is the final step in achieving all of the benefits of mergers,” said Mercy Health Muskegon President Greg Loomis. “This was the stated goal all along — to get to one facility.”
When the project is complete in three years, the Mercy campus will consolidate all of the health system’s inpatient acute care at one hospital in a market that used to have three facilities. The Hackley Hospital campus a few miles away will continue to provide outpatient medical services, physicians offices and what’s described as a “high functioning” urgent care center.
“Hackley will continue to be a very important and very busy site for us,” Loomis said.
Mercy Health plans to demolish the existing patient tower at the Hackley campus, he said.
Combining inpatient care into one campus and eliminating the redundancies and costs of operating two nearby hospitals will generate an estimated $25 million to $30 million in cost efficiencies annually, said Roger Spoelman, the regional CEO for Mercy Health.
Splitting the medical staffs between two inpatient acute care hospitals is “tremendously expensive and not the best use of resources,” Spoelman said.
“The return on investment in significant,” he said.
The move to a single hospital in Muskegon County dates back to 1995 when the former Muskegon General Hospital and Mercy Hospital began working together under a joint operating agreement. The hospitals then merged two years later.
The next merger came in 2008 when Mercy Hospital and Hackley Hospital combined to create Mercy General Health Partners, which later became Mercy Health Partners and is now known as Mercy Health Muskegon.
The long move to consolidation not only removes the operating inefficiencies of multiple inpatient hospitals in close proximity, but also improves the logistics for physicians and surgeons practicing at both locations, Spoelman said.
“Surgeons are doing surgeries at both places, sometimes in the same day,” he said. “That’s not the most attractive venue to recruit people to when you have staff going back and forth.”
A new, modern hospital campus can provide a setting that can help to draw physicians to the market, Spoelman said.
The former Muskegon General Hospital campus along U.S. 31 will close. The facility currently houses a diagnostics lab, an urgent care center, and sleep and memory clinics. The health system has yet to decide what will happen to the property, Spoelman said.
Mercy Health incorporated lean processes and design into the plans for the new and renovated facilities. As part of the project, the health system plans to reduce its licensed beds to 267 from 408 beds.
The bed reduction reflects advancements in medical practices and changes occurring in health care today. Those changes place a greater emphasis on outpatient care, maintaining health and avoiding costly hospital admissions when possible.
“From a population health perspective, we’re flipping the game to where finally health care is focusing most of its attention on keeping people well. Instead of just trying to fill the capacity that we had, we’re trying to create the capacity that’s needed,” Spoelman said. “We’re trying to keep people out of the hospital and get them the most appropriate level of care in the most appropriate venue that we can and that they need.”
The Milwaukee office of HGA Architects and Engineers led the final design work with support from Grand Rapids-based Progressive AE, which handled early planning for the project. The Christman Co. in Grand Rapids serves as the construction manager.