GRAND RAPIDS — As Saint Mary’s Mercy Medical Center prepares to open a new cancer hospital this winter, administrators are laying the groundwork for another medical center of excellence in neurosciences.
In planning for the $15 million Hauenstein Neurosciences Center, Saint Mary’s Mercy Medical Center is following the same track as with the Richard J. Lacks Cancer Center — ramping up clinical services, recruiting and assembling the medical talent, and reaching out to the philanthropic community to help develop a new facility that consolidates medical services for neurological disorders into a single location.
“We’ll put all the disciplines together,” Saint Mary’s CEO Phil McCorkle said. “The more we get into this, the more we realize the possibilities we can create.”
Saint Mary’s administrators are presently evaluating sites on the hospital’s Grand Rapids campus for the Hauenstein Neurosciences Center, which would bring together diagnostic and therapeutic services for people living with disorders such as Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s, dementia, spinal injuries and brain tumors.
As with the $42 million Lacks Cancer Center, which is under construction and scheduled to open in December, the idea is to create within two years a single, convenient campus that provides the resources and medical services a patient needs and that fosters collaboration among teams of clinical care providers.
That’s the same model used for not only the Lacks Cancer Center but also a center for diabetes and endocrinology. The same applies to the Hauenstein Parkinson’s Center that opened at Saint Mary’s in 2002, which consolidates many services for Parkinson’s disease and follows a holistic, team-based treatment model.
Saint Mary’s implemented integrated neurological care delivery in 1998 that features complementary therapies, traditional medical services and a high level of collaboration among primary-care physicians and specialists.
“We want this to be our brand, our method of delivering care and bringing together all of the disciplines,” McCorkle said. “We want to make it convenient” for patients.
The proposed neurosciences hospital evolved from the small Parkinson’s clinic that now records 800 patient visits a year.
Since announcing the neuroscience project last December, Saint Mary’s has secured pledges of nearly $8 million of the $15 million needed to develop and equip a multi-story facility of about 75,000 square feet.
The first $2 million came from philanthropist Ralph Hauenstein, whose father, the late Leon Hauenstein, suffered from Parkinson’s.
Hauenstein, who also will help lead a capital campaign for the neurosciences center, recalls the difficulty his father and family had in coping with the disease and the lack of available help.
“I watched him suffer from that and there was no place to go to treat him,” Hauenstein said.
“I want people to be able to go some place and be identified with their requirements and maybe some day go a step above it.”
In addition to his lead gift, Hauenstein also “made a few phone calls” to friends who pledged donations that brought the Saint Mary’s “inactive” campaign for the center to nearly $8 million.
The $15 million goal will “get us started” and get the neurosciences center built, said Micki Benz, Saint Mary’s vice president of development.
The health system will need to continue to raise capital regularly to sustain the center, particularly for rapidly evolving medical technology used to diagnose and treat neurological disorders.
“The biggest challenge is going to be keeping up with technology,” McCorkle said.
McCorkle said that amid a growing and aging population — and forecasts for higher incidence rates of neurological disorders — Saint Mary’s has identified neurosciences as a core medical service it should provide.
The health system anticipates that by 2007 its neurosurgeons, neurologists and orthopedic spine surgeons will record some 30,000 office visits from patients from around Michigan.
The Hauenstein Neurosciences Center has the potential to develop into a “premiere” center of excellence that draws patients from around the Midwest, McCorkle said.
He explained that strategic planning two years ago identified neurosciences as an area with a growing medical need and where Saint Mary’s can excel.
“When you start looking at it and what we want to do, it just seemed like a natural kind of fit,” McCorkle said.
“Financial resources in today’s health-care environment are so limited, so let’s focus on a few things and really, really do them well.”