GRAND RAPIDS — Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital and Spectrum Health’s DeVos Children’s Hospital plan to build the state’s first children’s rehabilitation hospital in Grand Rapids.
As part of a joint operating agreement announced at a press conference today, the $60 million building planned on Wealthy Street across from Mary Free Bed’s main campus would contain two floors and 67,000 square feet to provide specialized care for children. The hospital would be connected by skywalk to Mary Free Bed’s main campus at 235 Wealthy St. SE.
The new facility aims to provide life-changing rehabilitation to children born with malformations, defects, as well as children recovering from diseases, chronic pain or traumatic injuries, said Mary Free Bed CEO Kent Riddle.
“This proposed hospital will be the only freestanding children’s rehabilitation hospital in Michigan, ninth in the nation and one of only three that’s located between the two coasts,” Riddle said. “As the newest, it will be the most technologically advanced and specialized in our country.”
Mary Free Bed and Spectrum Health’s partnership on pediatric care stems back to 2018 when the two organizations signed a “forum for hospital collaboration” that initially focused on coordinating pediatric research and tracking outcomes for patients.
The need for rehabilitation care for children has grown tremendously in recent years. The number of children Mary Free Bed has treated since 2016 has increased by more than 73 percent, Riddle said. During 2021, nearly 60 percent of all Michigan children who needed inpatient rehabilitation received care at Mary Free Bed, Riddle added.
The hospital is working to raise $60 million from public and private donors by 2023 to start construction by the end of next year, Riddle said. Construction is expected to take two years. Progressive AE Inc. serves as the project designer.
“We’re capable of financially supporting the hospital once it’s built, but like other children’s hospitals, it takes an entire community to be able to put them together and create them,” Riddle said.
The first $10 million for the project is included in the recently announced budget deal between Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and top lawmakers. Whitmer said during today’s press conference that she expects to sign the state budget in the coming days.
“Every one of us knows someone who is going to benefit from this investment in Mary Free Bed,” Whitmer said.
The facility would have 24 private inpatient rooms, outpatient treatment areas, spaces for specialized services, recreation areas for children of all ages and a classroom for a certified teacher to help patients keep up with their school work. More than 40 specialized rehabilitation programs would be offered.
Mary Free Bed is in the process of finalizing a certificate-of-need with the state for the new facility, Riddle said.
“We’re already doing phenomenal things with children here at Mary Free Bed, but we need a more kid-friendly environment, a lot more space to do it and with that we can provide a deeper, richer care for these kids and families,” said Dr. Doug Henry, director of pediatric services at Mary Free Bed. “This building will do that. This building will also facilitate the collaboration we’ve had ongoing with all the specialists we’ve had at Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital, which has been phenomenal since I’ve been here in the last three years.”
The new facility will be a 50-50 partnership between Mary Free Bed and DeVos Children’s Hospital and likely draw patients from across Michigan as well as surrounding states, Henry said.
“If you have good programs, they’ll come,” Henry said. “This definitely will allow us to have much better programs and space, and take better care of patients.”