Eye Surgery Center Being Examined

    GRAND RAPIDS — As a benefit to patients and the community and a way to assert more control over their business, many ophthalmologists are establishing their own freestanding outpatient surgical facilities.

    Verdier Eye Center — home to a trio of ophthalmologists — is one office that is getting into the game by way of developing the Laser & Surgical Center of West Michigan LLC.

    The proposal for the surgical center is now in the final stages of receiving Certificate Of Need approval and is awaiting the go-ahead from the state.

    “We expect the state to give us the OK on the project,” said Mike LaPenna, principal of The LaPenna Group, a health care business development company. “We should receive the final determination by Sept. 1st.”

    What the doctors at the Verdier Eye Center want to do is construct a laser and surgical center — tentatively between 5,500 and 7,500 square feet in size — in a suite one floor below the suite the firm now occupies in the East Paris Medical Center.

    David Verdier, M.D., said the reason for the move from leasing space in the East Paris Medical Center’s surgical center is not an effort to take business away from the hospitals, but to give patients better care.

    “We can have more control over what is going on in our surgical center, including what kind of equipment we use, and we can be more efficient, serving more patients,” Verdier said.

    “All of those variables result in the improvement of quality of care for our patients, which is our ultimate goal.”

    Verdier and his partners — Karl Siebert, M.D., and Ann Renucci, M.D. — plan to have two ophthalmologic surgical rooms and one laser eye procedure room. They expect to perform 2,555 surgical cases annually beginning in June 2004.

    Verdier said the surgical rooms will also be available to other surgeons in the area who are looking for an open surgical site.

    “The surgical rooms in here (East Paris Medical Center) are beginning to fill up and it can be difficult to get a time slot,” Verdier told the Business Journal.

    “In some cases patients were waiting months to have their surgery performed; now it may just be an issue of walking downstairs.”

    A physician-owned surgical center also allows the doctors to avoid the bureaucracy and red tape they often have to deal with in hospitals and surgical centers when it comes to equipment.

    The trio said the new arrangement will allow them to be able to work with state-of-the-art equipment and keep up with the ever-changing technology.

    “We will be able to have whatever we need and have the best of what we need,” Renucci said.

    The patients will also benefit from this being a single specialty facility, said LaPenna.

    With all of the special equipment and machines needed for eye surgery, it makes the flow a lot smoother to have it as a constant in one place.

    “Once they have the facility they can be more effective because it is already set up,” said LaPenna. “It is efficient because it takes up less of the doctor’s time as well as the patient’s. There is being effective and there is being cost effective; I think they are doing both.”

    Because of the state of the economy, performing surgeries in a freestanding physician-owned surgical center also comes with lower costs to insurance companies and the community, LaPenna noted.

    Developing a surgical center is something Verdier said he has wanted to do for the past 10 years but with CON specifics and regulations, there wasn’t an opportunity until now.

    “All of the consultants have said we can do this,” Verdier said.

    “Now we just have to wait and see what the officials say. I understand they don’t want just anyone building a facility, so it will really come down to the quality of our practice.”

    Siebert said this venture will give the practice a chance to demonstrate at another level what quality and patient satisfaction mean to them.

    “The hospitals here are wonderful, and we don’t want anyone to think that we are doing this because they aren’t (wonderful),” Siebert said.

    “But we think that with so many doctors and patients trying to get into the hospitals and surgical centers for OR time, we will be able to free some of that up and bring the quality and ethics of our practice into our own surgical center.”

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