Merged Muskegon Hospitals Fare Well


    MUSKEGON — Mercy Health Partners, created by the April merger between Hackley Hospital and Mercy General Health Partners, is projecting a positive margin of 4.1 percent for the 2008-09 fiscal year, CEO Roger Spoelman said.

    After just a single quarter as a merged, $500 million system, the newly united duo finished the 2007-08 fiscal year in June in the black, he added. Hackley reported a $1.62 million deficit to the IRS for the tax year ending in June 2006. Spoelman said MHP raised prices an average of 3 percent to 4 percent.

    Since the merger, the medical staffs have melded, pediatrics has been consolidated at the Hackley campus and 30 executives, mostly from the Hackley side, were laid off as of July 1, Spoelman said. Between savings in salaries, wages and reduced capital spending in addition to improved revenues, the goal is a $12 million boost to the budget.

    “When we went into this, we knew there was going to be a little bit of downsizing and position combining and elimination of some positions. It’s just a normal part of this process,” he said. “We really tried to get people ready for it by letting them know all of us are walking into new jobs. All of our jobs are very different. We’ve never experienced an organization of this size and scope.”

    The laid-off vice presidents, managers and supervisors received outplacement services as well as salary and benefit continuation based on salary, years of service or contract provisions, he said. Some positions were eliminated and others were combined.

    He said there may be additional layoffs, but couldn’t say when or which jobs may be involved. Consolidation remains in the future for most departments and facilities as MHP juggles questions of demand, capacity and meeting terms of its agreements with the Service Employees International Union Healthcare and the Michigan Nurses Association.

    SEIU represents about 2,000 employees of Mercy Health Partners, including 500 nurses, according to Marge Faville, secretary/treasurer. The Michigan Nurses Association represents about 350 nurses at the Hackley campus.

    “We have some union issues that we want to work through before we transfer people from campus to campus or department to department. We just have to abide by the work rules established for each of these bargaining units,” Spoelman said.

    Faville said that so far, little has changed for union members.

    “We are going to be interested in issues as far as making sure that our members are able to keep the benefits they now enjoy,” said Faville.

    An MNA representative could not be reached for comment.

    Faville said that while the two unions are not negotiating together, they have met to discuss common issues related to the merger.

    Spoelman said some consolidation has occurred with pediatrics, orthotics and prosthetics and outpatient pharmacy services.

    “We just want to get to the point where we’re not competing with ourselves,” he said.

    Other consolidations are more complicated. “Like OB (obstetrics), for example: Neither one of our campuses has the excess capacity to accommodate the entire number of births or deliveries in our community.”

    Every move demands a counter move. “We’ve got to free up some space,” he said. “What happens to the other services now occupying that space? Where do they go? I think we are going to start to see more aggressive moves in terms of clinical consolidation. We are going to have answers to our analyses.”

    Spoelman said MHP, which is owned by Trinity Health of Novi, plans to reach out to neighboring hospitals to drive specialized care to its campuses.

    “I have great respect for what they’re doing in Grand Rapids. We want to be an alternative,” he said. “There are people who drive by us for services that we could provide. We want to put an end to that.

    “We said from the very beginning that we are going to turn our focus outward and begin to look pretty aggressively at growth strategy in our neighboring communities along the lakeshore.”

    With a total of about 4,300 employees, Spoelman said he is sensitive to the role that MHP plays in Muskegon County.

    “As the largest employer, we are going to remain lean and grow and stimulate the local economy and work very hard to bring in new programs,” he said.

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