Saints Unveils Neuroscience Plan


    GRAND RAPIDS — As Saint Mary’s Health Care prepares to open one new specialty medical center for cancer, plans are progressing to commence work this year for another that focuses on neurological disorders.

    Saint Mary’s Health Care wants to begin demolition this spring of Xavier Hall along Cherry Street to make way for the $30 million Hauenstein Neuroscience Center that could begin rising on the site next year.

    The five-level medical center would consolidate all of Saint Mary’s Health Care’s medical services for people with neurological disorders, including Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, stroke, dementia, brain and spinal cord injuries and epilepsy.

    Occupancy of the new medical center, which still needs the green light from corporate parent Trinity Health and is subject to the state’s certificate-of-need process, could come in mid-2007.

    An expanded emergency department and trauma unit would occupy the center’s first level to accommodate burgeoning patient volumes in the ER. Saint Mary’s Health Care would also construct a helipad on the roof of the center and an adjacent parking garage at Cherry Street and Jefferson Avenue.

    Still in the planning stages, the Hauenstein Neuroscience Center represents the second major development that Saint Mary’s Health Care has taken on since setting in motion a strategic plan three years ago that identified cancer, neurosciences and orthopedics as core medical services to focus on for the future. The health system is preparing to open the new $45 million Lacks Cancer Center later this month.

    “We really continue to develop certain programs to premier status,” Saint Mary’s Health Care CEO Phil McCorkle said.

    As with the Lacks CancerCenter, Saint Mary’s Health Care plans to finance the Hauenstein Neuroscience Center through philanthropy. The health system has so far netted commitments totaling $23.8 million, which includes $15 million of its own capital, a $2 million gift from philanthropist Ralph Hauenstein and $6.3 million in pledges from an ongoing campaign to long-time benefactors.

    In addition to the initial $30 million to build and equip the neuroscience center, Saint Mary’s Health Care wants to raise another $20 million to cover the cost of future upgrades in medical technology.

    “Thirty million is going to be the beginning. There will be a need for more money because technology, as it gets better, gets more expensive,” said Micki Benz, vice president of community development at Saint Mary’s Health Care.

    Requests to potential major donors are pending, Benz said, “and we’re very optimistic.”

    The cost of medical technology, combined with the $5 million emergency department expansion, helped to push the estimated cost of the project to double its original figure of $15 million. In planning the new neurosciences center, Saint Mary’s Health Care found a need to expand the scope of medical services beyond what was originally envisioned, Benz said.

    “It’s a complicated set of services, neurology,” she said. “The more you started thinking about what you wanted to put into it, the more service you see the need for. As the population and the latest technology move, it’s going to easily need more than you initially anticipate.”

    Using the same care model as the Lacks Cancer Center, Saint Mary’s Health Care envisions a convenient, single campus for neurosciences that will provide the resources and medical services that patients and their families need and that fosters collaboration among teams of clinical care providers.

    Saint Mary’s implemented an integrated neurological care delivery model in 1998 that features complementary therapies, traditional medical services and a high level of collaboration among primary-care physicians and specialists. The health system followed that up in 2002 with the opening of a Parkinson’s clinic.

    Amid a growing and aging population and forecasts for higher incidence rates of neurological disorders, Saint Mary’s Health Care anticipates that by 2007 its neurosurgeons, neurologists and orthopedic spine surgeons will record some 30,000 office visits from patients in and around Michigan. 

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