Hackley Planning A New ER

MUSKEGON — Hackley Hospital, expecting final state approval to come next month, is planning to begin construction in the spring on a new $9.9 million emergency department.

Hackley, with patient visits growing by an average of 10.5 percent annually in the last five years, is following an industry trend by developing a new ER to accommodate future volumes, as well as to better segregate emergency and non-emergency cases and more efficiently treat people who go to the hospital for comparatively minor ailments.

Among the factors pushing patient volumes higher is the growing tendency among the public to use emergency rooms for primary care when they have a medical problem, particular by those who are without insurance, and a retreat from managed-care restrictions of the past.

Many hospitals have expanded or reconfigured their ERs to better manage those utilization patterns. That includes Hackley’s chief competitor in Muskegon, Mercy General Health Partners, which is building a new $9 million, 17,000-square-foot emergency department that is scheduled for completion and occupancy toward the end of January. North Ottawa Community Hospital in Grand Haven is also planning to expand its ER capacity as part of an upcoming major $11 million first-floor renovation.

“This is part of a trend where ERs across the country are booming,” said Lody Zwarensteyn, president of the health care planning agency Alliance for Health in Grand Rapids.

The Hackley project received the endorsement of the Alliance for Health’s Certificate of Need Evaluation Board late last month. Final approval is expected by late January with the issuance of a certificate of need from the Michigan Department of Community Health.

Hackley’s emergency department treated 51,504 patients for the fiscal year that ended March 31, up by more than 20,000 from just five years earlier. ER volumes for the 2003 fiscal year are on a pace to exceed 53,400, nearly double the facility’s original design capacity. Hackley handled 14,273 cases in the ER for the July-to-September quarter.

In the years ahead, Hackley foresees a slower growth rate of 5 percent annually, although that expectation is based on conservative projections for the future, Director of Planning Julie Strach said.

“We don’t like to be too optimistic,” Strach said. “We like to be conservative when we look at the future.”

Hackley, an affiliate of Spectrum Health in Grand Rapids, projects emergency department volumes to grow to 64,908 by the 2008 fiscal year. Hackley will build the new 11,480-square-foot emergency department, more than twice the size of the existing ER, as an addition to the north side of the hospital.

The facility is designed for easy, low-cost expansion in the future, if needed. Occupancy is targeted for the spring of 2004.

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