Richard C. Breon, left, president and CEO of Spectrum Health, and Mark Vipperman, CEO of Memorial Medical Center, sign a letter of intent to merge. Courtesy Memorial Medical Center
Memorial Medical Center in Ludington signed a letter of intent Friday morning to join Spectrum Health System in Grand Rapids.
The letter is non-binding, but “establishes that MMC will work exclusively with Spectrum Health to develop a definitive agreement,” according to the announcement from MMC.
MMC, an 87-bed acute care hospital with a family health clinic in Hart, confirmed in October that it was looking for a “larger, integrated health care system” to partner with and had hired Juniper Advisory in Chicago to help it with a nationwide search. Al Deering, chairman of the MMC board, said then that the hospital’s finances were in good shape but that changes in health care were driving consolidations and board members decided they ought to look into it.
The MMC board considered 27 health care systems and reached a unanimous conclusion that Spectrum Health’s proposal best met the MMC objectives.
“Our primary goal in this process has been to preserve MMC as a viable health care provider in this location for future generations,” said Deering. “That is our key responsibility as a board. After a thorough evaluation, we believe that joining Spectrum Health is the best possible solution for the communities and people we serve, as well as for our doctors and staff.”
The agreement “will preserve MMC’s board of directors, meaning there will continue to be a local voice in governing the hospital. Other benefits include expanded health care services, better access to capital, improved access to medical specialists, additional professional opportunities for community physicians, and retention of MMC’s local staff,” according to the announcement.
Citing “the rapidly changing health care industry” this morning, Deering said that while MMC “is in a strong financial position,” it was “the best time to position our hospital to meet the challenges facing the health care sector of our national economy.”
“Without a partnership we would be much more vulnerable to regulatory changes and evolving market forces, and our future would become increasingly uncertain,” said Deering.
Deering said the details of the merger will be negotiated over the next few months, “and we expect no problems reaching a definitive agreement.”
“Our local board will continue to have significant decision-making authority and oversight for the hospital’s operations. We feel confident that Spectrum Health will fully support our goals in this part of West Michigan,” he said.
MMC CEO Mark Vipperman said the patients “will benefit from expanded services, access to specialists, and enhanced recruitment of additional physicians. Joining Spectrum Health strengthens this organization for the challenges ahead and will stabilize a health care presence in this part of Michigan for the future.”
He added that MMC has been “assured that our current employees will be retained as employees of Spectrum Health when the merger becomes finalized and will continue to provide patients with excellent care. We believe expanded services could strengthen our position as the largest employer in Mason County.”
Vipperman said the hospital’s medical staff would also benefit from the partnership, and chief of staff Dr. Steven Strbich said the benefit would be “additional professional opportunities and enhanced support from being part of a strong, integrated health care system. It will also help us in recruiting new physicians to practice here.”
“Throughout the process,” Deering added, “MMC’s board retained the option to remain independent. However, we believe Spectrum Health understands West Michigan and shares our commitment and sense of mission. It is a very sound cultural fit for us and will allow us to serve the community even better as far into the future as we can see.”