Hospitals partner on $7M unit


A rendering of an inpatient room at the 40-bed Mary Free Bed at Sparrow rehabilitation unit in Lansing. Courtesy Sparrow

A hospital is extending its reach in the state by partnering with a health care system to construct a $7-million unit with 40 private inpatient rooms.

Construction on the first phase of the approximately $7-million Mary Free Bed at Sparrow rehabilitation unit began earlier this month at Sparrow Hospital in Lansing, at 1215 E. Michigan Ave.

The unit will expand the footprint of Grand Rapids-based Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital and the inpatient rehabilitation capabilities of Sparrow Hospital in the mid-Michigan market. Sparrow Hospital is part of the Sparrow health care system.

The unit

Designed by Diekema Hamann Architecture & Engineering, which operates offices in Grand Rapids and Kalamazoo, the completed project will feature the inpatient rooms and two modern rehabilitation gymnasiums, housed within three wings on the sixth floor of Sparrow Hospital.

The renovation and construction of Mary Free Bed at Sparrow is being completed by Lansing-based Granger in two phases, with 30 private rooms expected to be finished by next July and the remainder of the rehabilitation unit done by early 2016.

Bruce Brasser, VP of network operations at Mary Free Bed, said as part of the collaborative process, they conducted a market analysis, which indicated a need for a new unit to address the needs of Sparrow’s growing community.

“We have three goals: first is to serve more patients; second is to have private rooms; and the third is to bring our nursing, physicians and therapy staff all together,” Brasser said.

Although not all of the same advanced services offered at Mary Free Bed will be available at the rehabilitation unit at Sparrow Hospital, Brasser said it will not only improve advanced rehabilitation care, but also create a convenient conduit to move patients from Lansing to Grand Rapids for services such as severe brain or spinal cord injuries.

“The partnership between Mary Free Bed and Sparrow I believe has benefitted both organizations,” Brasser said. “We have found there are some things they do very well at Sparrow we have implemented at Mary Free Bed. Mary Free Bed wasn’t coming in to fix something that was wrong — both organizations were strong and by working together we have become even stronger.”


There are roughly 25 to 30 new positions expected to develop as the rehabilitation unit grows, which will comprise therapy, nursing and support staff.

Existing and new staff members will be employees of Sparrow Hospital, while the management team will be employed by Mary Free Bed.


Financing for the $7-million project will come from Sparrow Hospital and Mary Free Bed equally, primarily from reserves, according to Brasser.

“I do not believe either organization will have to borrow,” Brasser said. “We have also been approached by various community organizations or leaders who would like to contribute.”

“Next step” in coordinated care

The joint venture between Sparrow Hospital and Mary Free Bed was announced in January 2014 to develop advanced inpatient rehabilitation care for patients in mid Michigan, as part of the Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Network formed in 2011.

“Mary Free Bed and Sparrow have both been providing health care services in our communities for decades,” Brasser said. “Sparrow approached Mary Free Bed about a partnership, and it was a great fit. Our mission, vision and values were very consistent.”

Kris Tennant, director of Mary Free Bed at Sparrow, said it’s exciting to be able to provide care in an environment conducive to restoring hope and freedom.

“It is a wonderful collaborative project,” Tennant said. “Physicians, nurses, therapists and patients and their family members all provided input. We will be able to maximize functional independence for our patients in a wonderfully healing environment.”

Tennant previously was the director of rehabilitation at Sparrow Hospital before assuming the leadership role of the Mary Free Bed at Sparrow unit.

Tennant said previously that the establishment of the unit is “the next step” of the 2012 Coordination of Care Agreement, which formalized a working relationship and fostered greater collaboration.

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