Mercy Gets ER Support

    MUSKEGON — Mercy General Health Partners expects to receive state approval by the end of next month to proceed with construction of a new $8.98 million emergency department.

    The health system this month received an endorsement for the project from the Alliance for Health’s Certificate of Need (CON) Evaluation Board. The Alliance for Health is a Grand Rapids-based health-care planning agency that reviews Certificate of Need applications locally on behalf of the Michigan Department of Community Health.

    Mercy General’s application “sailed through” the Alliance for Health’s review, organization President Lody Zwarensteyn said. The alliance recommended to the Department of Community Health that it issue the CON Mercy General needs to begin construction.

    Both Zwarensteyn and Mercy General Marketing Director Roberta King expect state approval to come by the end of September.

    “The need is so great for this, I don’t think we’ll have any problem,” King said. “We’re keeping our fingers crossed.”

    The Mercy General project will expand the number of emergency examination and treatment rooms and significantly improve patient privacy, as well as feature a Level 2 trauma unit and a separate area that will enable staff to quickly examine and treat people with comparatively minor ailments and injuries.

    The 16,554-square-foot addition is intended to accommodate the rapidly growing number of visits to Mercy General’s ER annually. The hospital in recent years has experienced annual increases averaging more than 9 percent in its ER volumes.

    In 1998, the year after Mercy General was formed through the merger of the former Muskegon General Hospital and Mercy Hospital Muskegon, and ER services were consolidated at one campus, the hospital recorded 32,066 ER visits. The ER volume grew to 36,290 in 2000 and is projected to increase to 42,580 by 2003.

    Mercy General expects the average charge per ER visit to decrease $11 from the amount it would otherwise be as a result of the operating efficiencies generated through the new facility, with the average charge in 2003 coming in at $2,035.

    The health system will cover 20 percent of the project cost with its own funds, and pay the remaining 80 percent through proceeds generated through a bond issue.

    Mercy General hopes to break ground on the project this fall. Occupancy is targeted for November 2002, King said. 

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