Street Talk: Game of musical chairs keeps hospitals hopping


A tipster said last week that Metro Health may make a big announcement very soon regarding its choice of a new partner. The suggestion was made that the odds seem to favor a three-way merger of the University of Michigan Health System and Trinity Health, with Metro. But maybe that’s a stretch.

Trinity Health, which has corporate headquarters in Livonia, includes 12 hospitals in Michigan, including Saint Mary’s in Grand Rapids and Mercy Health Partners in Muskegon.

The Business Journal contacted Metro Health board chair Doyle Hayes and asked if a three-way deal involving Metro, the U-M system and Trinity Health was actually a possibility.

“That would be desirable,” he replied, but added that no decision has been made yet by Metro Health.

However, another person, a health care industry insider, said there really has been a big increase in the last two or three weeks in the tempo of high-level meetings at Metro.

Meanwhile, Spectrum Health keeps adding more small hospitals, expanding its turf in West Michigan. Friday we learned about the merger-in-progress between Spectrum and Memorial Medical Center in Ludington. With much hoopla, MMC bigwigs held a news conference to tell about the letter of intent it has from Spectrum, allowing MMC to join that system. So far, it’s non-binding but “establishes that MMC will work exclusively with Spectrum Health to develop a definitive agreement.”

In late April, Spectrum announced that its board, the Mecosta County Medical Center Board of Trustees, and the Mecosta County Board of Commissioners have approved resolutions allowing the Big Rapids hospital to join Spectrum Health System on July 1. MCMC is a 74-bed acute-care hospital which also has a couple of rural clinics.

MMC in Ludington is an 87-bed acute care hospital with a family care clinic in Hart, south of Ludington by about 20 miles.

Interestingly, both Memorial Medical Center and Metro Health made announcements back in October that confirmed they were each looking for a partner, and both claimed they were in great shape financially — just thinking that with all the changes coming in health care, it might be a good idea to buddy up with some other hospital system with deeper pockets.

Mound presence

Former First Lady Laura Bush was the guest speaker at Davenport University’s Excellence in Business Dinner Gala last Friday night. The event honored Mike Jandernoa, former board chair and CEO of Perrigo Co. and founder of Jandernoa Entrepreneurial Mentoring. He was the recipient of the 2013 Peter C. Cook Excellence in Business Award.

Bush praised Grand Rapids, saying it felt like her “home away from home,” thanks to all the recent visits she has made during Gerald R. Ford’s centennial. The First Family afterlife in Texas, “the state George calls the Promised Land,” is filled with less political drama and more family pursuits, she said, like figuring out what grandparent names her daughter Jenna’s new baby should call them. Hers is Mimi Maxwell.

“George just wants the baby to call him, ‘sir,’” she said.

Bush reflected on her husband’s eight years in office, saying they left feeling bittersweet but proud. As the First Lady, she was constantly compared to her predecessors, her mother-in-law Barbara Bush and Hillary Rodham Clinton, and lived with the ghosts of past presidents and their wives. Her family constantly faced the public’s criticism, or as she termed it, “a sacred music” of citizens trying to keep their leaders accountable.

Bush said the darkest day of her time at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. was Sept. 11, 2001. That night, she and the president and their daughters met in a secure bunker in the White House and hugged.

“I don’t remember what we said, but we were safe and our daughters were safe,” she said. “But all we could think about were the thousands of Americans who weren’t.”

The one moment she said she would always remember came a month later when President Bush threw the ceremonial first pitch of Game 3 during the 97thWorld Series between the New York Yankees and the Arizona Diamondbacks. Yankee shortstop and Kalamazoo native Derek Jeter and the president were warming up below Yankee Stadium, when Jeter asked if Bush was planning to take the pitch from the mound.

“You think I should?” President Bush responded.

“Be a man. Pitch from the mound,” Jeter teased. “But don’t bounce it. They’ll boo you.”

As Laura watched her husband walk alone to the mound, she said a chilling realization struck her: 9/11 had now turned everything from the crowd to the venerable sporting landmark to the president into plausible targets. She took a breath and waited.

She said Bush fired a strike that day — from the mound.

Kissinger tells

Henry Kissinger, the 56th U.S. Secretary of State and notable diplomat under presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford, arrived in town Monday for a special meeting of the Economic Club of Grand Rapids. The luncheon, hosted at the J.W. Marriott in downtown Grand Rapids, was held in cooperation with the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Foundation’s Centennial Celebration of President Ford. Kissinger was joined by the late President Ford’s family, former Vice President Dick Cheney and political commentator Ben Stein, who served as a speech writer for both Nixon and Ford.

Steve Ford, the youngest son of President Ford, performed a public interview with Kissinger about his experiences in office. Kissinger said he was proud to have known President Ford, “a human being of extraordinary qualities,” calling their relationship one he will treasure all his life.

“(Ford) took over at a moment of extraordinary complexity for America,” Kissinger said. “The government was in confusion. Foreign countries had no idea what would happen next. He had not been elected, and yet he took over with an assurance and a benevolence that was so uniquely American.”

In light of West Michigan World Trade Week, Kissinger discussed global issues, touching on technology and its ability to not only help diplomats to converse better than ever, but to allow unlimited access to information at simply the press of a button. He shared a concern, however, that the simplicity of technology could be distracting from the core issues of the dialogue.

“On the one hand technology gives us unprecedented information; on the other hand, it may make it look so simple that you can only talk about tactics and never ask the root question of, ‘Where are you trying to go?’” he said. “If you look at great leaders in history, they have not been distinguished because they had higher IQ tests than anyone else. They were distinguished by having a sense of the future.”

Ford was such a leader, Kissinger said, marked by a serenity characteristic of Grand Rapids.

“He was at peace with himself. He did not have to prove things to himself,” Kissinger said. “And he, therefore, could look at the future without fear and with confidence that if he had done the best he could, that’s all anyone could ask of him.”

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