LANSING — If approved by the Michigan House of Representatives, the hospital design bill that recently passed the Michigan Senate would mark the first statutory update of hospital design standards since 1978.
That year marked the enactment of the state’s current Public Health Code.
Since then, a great many changes have occurred in design guidelines, according to the House Legislative Analysis Section.
But those changes have pretty much come into being as informal guidelines and standards regulated by the Michigan Department of Public Health as necessitated by the emergence of new health issues.
The state’s public health code requires that contractors obtain a construction permit from the Michigan Department of Consumer & Industry Services (CIS) before undertaking new construction costing $1 million or more.
The same applies to additions, upgrades or conversions of a health facility or agency, again if such a project costs $1 million or more.
CIS is authorized to promulgate updates or supplements to the rules and to review and approve architectural plans for health facility projects.
House Bill 5761 would amend the code to replace the current minimum standards for hospital construction, additions and modernizations with those set forth in the 1998 Michigan Department of Community Health publication, “Minimum Design Standards for Health Care Facilities in Michigan.”
“I would say, based on what I know, that this would place us in the front rank of states in respect to standards for hospitals,” said R. Thomas Martin, director of CIS’s Office of Policy and Legislative Affairs.
“The old standards were a good deal below these, so we’ve raised the bar, but I think only to the level of prevailing industry practice.”
People in health care have been using the document on a voluntary basis since 1998, he added, noting that the current document replaced one that was “really archaic.”
“Over the years there have been many new techniques and products that have come on the market,” he said, “and unless the standards change, they can’t really be used.
“The whole theory behind codes, which is what this essentially is,” he added, “is to allow folks to take advantage of the latest products, techniques and processes.
“Care changes the way people are expected to do things over time based on research. That’s the purpose of the code.”
The bill was delayed on the House floor due to a Senate amendment concerning a certificate of need issue for veterans’ hospitals.
Martin said he’s hopeful the House will act on the bill when it reconvenes Nov. 7 and send it on to the governor for his signature.
“But you never know with respect to these add-on amendments, particularly when they deal with certificate of need issues, which can be very controversial,” he added.
Jim Childress, spokesman for Metropolitan Hospital, said it appears all the state legislature is doing is putting into law the minimum design standards that have been in place for nearly five years.
Metropolitan Hospital intends to move from its 17-acre site on Boston Avenue in Southeast Grand Rapids to a new 150-acre site on Byron Center Road, along the border of the city of Wyoming and Byron Township.
Plans call for a “health care village,” with the new hospital occupying about a third of the site and the remainder dedicated to health care services or enterprises.
“We’re confident that our design has met those standards so we don’t see any implications surfacing from this bill having anything to do with our construction,” Childress said. “We designed it with those standards in mind and see no complications as a result of it.”