GRAND RAPIDS — A new women’s health center Metro Health-University of Michigan Health System plans to open later this year will increase patients’ access to care in eastern Kent County.
The health system has been building out 15,000 square feet of space at the Metro Health Park East campus at Cascade Road and I-96 to house a practice that will provide specialty medical services and outpatient procedures for women.
Many of the women’s medical services planned for the East campus now are only available at the Metro Health Village hospital campus in Wyoming on the other side of the county, leading officials to believe the center could also serve as a potential lure for new patients.
“This is the first time we’ve taken a large step forward and made the women’s health service line a big initiative,” said Dr. Steve Lown, the medical director of obstetrics and gynecology at Metro Health who will lead the new Women’s Health Center.
“Instead of saying, ‘We are the place, come to us,’ our feeling is we’re here to take care of patients and there’s no easier way to do that than to increase access for patients,” Lown said. “What we’ve looked at doing at the East campus is providing as many services as we can to save them the drive here. We’re essentially trying to duplicate what we’re doing here (at Metro Health Village) over there.”
Among the medical services planned for the Women’s Health Center are outpatient gynecological surgeries, mammograms, ultrasounds, family planning, sexual health and menopause management.
The medical office building at the Metro Health East Park presently houses primary care and specialty physician offices. Metro also offers urgent care, X-rays, wound care, and an outpatient surgery center at the site.
Metro Health has a long-term lease in place for the 105,000-square-foot medical office building in Grand Rapids Charter Township. The facility sold in August 2017 for $35.3 million to an undisclosed buyer as part of a 25-building property deal across 10 states completed by Los Angeles-based CBRE Global Investment Partners, as MiBiz reported last year.
The new Women’s Health Center that’s scheduled to open in late December represents a major push into women’s health as well as one of the first visible growth initiatives for Metro Health following its acquisition by U-M Health System in 2017.
“Metro Health’s affiliation with University of Michigan Health provides access to some of the highest-rated expertise in women’s health in the country. Investing in women’s health allows us to leverage that access and expertise as we look to add specialties and subspecialties. This means better health for the communities we serve,” said Peter Hahn, Metro Health’s president and CEO who succeeded Mike Faas on Oct. 1 following his retirement.
“Women’s health is a natural fit with the patient-centered and holistic approach that has always been a part of Metro Health. OB-GYNs develop lifelong bonds with their patients, often treating multiple generations of families,” Hahn said.
Those “lifelong bonds” Hahn speaks of are part of the business rationale for Metro Health to expand women’s health services.
Lown notes that many household decisions on health care are typically made by women. If Metro Health can attract more patients in women’s health, the rest of the family may follow suit.
“If we can make those experiences easy for the patient, and make sure they have a positive experience, our hope is their families will start coming to Metro U-M, and their extended family,” Lown said. “That builds on itself and the tree branches out.”
Metro Health directors decided a year and a half ago to focus more on women’s health with the acquisition of Michigan Obstetrics and Gynecology PC, Lown said. The health system recently added three more OB/GYNs with Drs. Renee Elderkin, Susan VandenBosch, and Sue Hicks. Each will work out of the Women’s Health Center.
Metro Health continues “working collaboratively to bring more providers and increase our access for women’s health services across the board, including some subspecialties that we’re working on,” Lown said.
The effort by Metro Health to build the women’s health practice comes as the U.S. faces a shortage of up to 8,800 OB-GYNs by 2020, according to the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.
The shortage “could prove devastating to women’s health care in the U.S.,” according to a June 2018 report by San Francisco-based research firm Doximity. The report noted that increasing workloads and unpredictable hours are contributing factors to OB-GYNs having the second-highest burnout rate among all medical specialties — behind emergency physicians — leading to retirements at an early age.
The firm’s research found that only 16 percent of all OB-GYNs in the U.S. are 40 years old or younger, and 36 percent are older than age 55.