Mary Free Bed breaks ground on $54M expansion


Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital in Grand Rapids provides inpatient and outpatient services for children and adults. Photo via

Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital in Grand Rapids held a groundbreaking ceremony Tuesday — to launch a $54-million expansion and renovation project that will double its patient space.

The three existing buildings will be renovated and a new 190,000-square-foot structure be built and in use by the fall of 2014.

Susan Ford Bales, the daughter of President Gerald R. Ford and Betty Ford, was present to announce the establishment of The Betty Bloomer Ford Cancer Rehabilitation Program at Mary Free Bed.

Mary Free Bed Guild President Shelley Mishler was also present and said the Guild is providing the lead gift for the project — $16 million.

“This is a transformative project, enabling us to serve more patients and provide even greater specialized care. It is the linchpin to our vision of becoming one of the top five rehabilitation hospitals in the country,” said Mary Free Bed President and CEO Kent Riddle.

Project scope

The existing hospital, its Outpatient Therapy facility and Mary Ives Hunting Center will be renovated for a total of 200,000 square feet, with completion expected by early 2015. 

Forty-eight new skilled nursing licensed beds will be added, and all patient rooms will be private with private bathrooms.

The hospital said 250 to 350 new jobs in skilled nursing, therapy and related specialties will result from the project.

Mary Free Bed's capacity will be expanded to accommodate an additional 1,800 patients per year.

Office spaces will be created for charting by nurses and nurse technicians. Each nursing office will be responsible for six patient rooms, and specialized therapy gyms will be located on the patient floors.

First Lady Betty Ford and Mary Free Bed

The construction project will support the development of new programs, including the Betty Bloomer Ford Cancer Rehabilitation Program.

With unprecedented candor about her breast cancer in 1974, First Lady Betty Ford changed the way people viewed the disease.

The Betty Bloomer Ford Cancer Rehabilitation Program is a pioneering step in the new sub specialty of cancer rehabilitation, designed to help patients achieve maximum cognitive, emotional and physical functioning, while improving quality of life for patients and their families, MFB officials said.

During the ceremony, Susan Ford Bales spoke about her family ties to Mary Free Bed: her mother and grandmother were active supporters of the hospital, and Betty Bloomer Ford was a founding member of the Junior Guild in 1935. Her mother, Hortense Neahr Bloomer, was Guild president from 1931-1932.

Mary Free Bed dates to 1891 and is a not-for-profit, acute-care hospital dedicated exclusively to providing rehabilitation for children and adults.

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