Voters in Van Buren County cleared the way for South Haven Health System to become part of Bronson Healthcare Group at the start of the new year.
A ballot question in the two cities and seven townships that own South Haven Community Health System easily earned the support of voters on Tuesday. The affiliation for the health system to join Bronson passed with 89 percent of the vote.
“We’re just thrilled,” said South Haven President and CEO Joanne Schroeder. “It really is going to allow us to continue to have local health care.”
As a public authority health system, South Haven needed voter approval to proceed with plans to affiliate with Bronson. The transition to Bronson ownership should occur Jan. 1.
South Haven Health System consists of the 65-bed South Haven Community Hospital, an urgent care clinic, a medical office building, and a wellness and rehabilitation center, plus a primary care office in Bangor.
Becoming part of Bronson helps South Haven with access to capital, as well as improved access to medical specialties and diagnostics.
In return, Bronson expands its reach further across the region. Except for existing collaborations with South Haven, Bronson lacks a presence in the lakeshore market of western Van Buren County, although it does own and operate LakeView Hospital in Paw Paw on the county’s east side.
Under an affiliation agreement reached in August, Bronson Healthcare committed to investing $18 million over five years in facilities and services in South Haven and will contribute $1 million to a new fund within the Bronson Foundation dedicated to the South Haven area. The health system will take on the name Bronson South Haven Hospital.
Bronson also agreed to maintain an emergency room in South Haven for at least five years.
The affiliation follows more than 30 years of collaboration between South Haven Health System and Bronson Healthcare. South Haven is already connected to Bronson’s electronic health records system and contracts with Bronson for pathology services and hospitalists.
South Haven Health System began seeking a partner last January, citing shrinking reimbursements from Medicare, Medicaid and private insurers, and the increased use of high-deductible health plans that contribute to bad debt. In the 2016 fiscal year that ended June 30, the health system lost $1.5 million on total revenues of about $45 million.