Hospital Renovation Earns Support

    GRAND HAVEN — North Ottawa Community Hospital, after breezing through a local review process for a planned $9.3 million renovation that will significantly expand capacity for growing outpatient medical services, expects to secure final state approval soon and proceed with construction.

    Barb Diehl, vice president of nursing services at North Ottawa, expects the Michigan Department of Community Health to issue a certificate of need for the first-floor renovation around Oct. 1, in time for the first phase of the project to begin in November.

    “We’re planning on that, so we’ll see what happens,” Diehl said.

    North Ottawa easily passed the first hurdle toward securing the state approval when the CON Evaluation Board for the Alliance for Health, a regional health care planning agency, unanimously endorsed the project earlier this month.

    The renovation makes “great sense” for North Ottawa because it will clean up a confusing and inefficient physical layout of the hospital’s first floor and provide additional capacity for growing patient volumes for outpatient and emergency services, Alliance for Health President Lody Zwarensteyn said.

    North Ottawa already holds a strong position in the outpatient areas it wants to expand: imaging, oncology, women’s health, endoscopy, and surgery, Zwarensteyn said.

    “They’re playing within their game. They’re not straying into any area they’re not strong in,” he said. “They’re not grandiose and they’ve analyzed their business, and that’s what they’re planning for.”

    Outpatient services now account for more than 80 percent of North Ottawa’s patient volumes. The hospital projects a 17.1 percent increase in outpatient visits in the next two years, from 106,917 for the fiscal year that ended June 30, to 125,257 in 2004.

    As a percentage of total patient revenues, outpatient services have grown from 68.6 percent in FY 2000 to 69.2 percent in FY 2001 and are projected to increase to 74.6 percent by 2004.

    As is the case at other hospitals, the 81-bed, acute-care North Ottawa also is seeing sustained growth in its emergency department volumes. The hospital anticipates a 5 percent increase in emergency department visits between now and 2004, with patient visits growing from 16,571 to 17,409 annually.

    The first-floor renovation comes a year after completion of the $10 million Harbor Dunes Health Center that was developed in partnership between North Ottawa and Horizon Medical PLC, a group of primary care and specialty physicians in the Grand Haven area.

    Work on the first-floor project will occur in phases, so as to cause as little disruption as possible, with final completion targeted for 2006. The hospital will finance the project by using $2.59 million in cash reserves and a 20-year bond issue of $6.76 million.           

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