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Published: Friday, 3/18/2005

Monroe hospital system plans expansion

BY GEORGE J. TANBER
BLADE STAFF WRITER
An architect's rendering depicts some of the changes planned for Monroe's Mercy Memorial Hospital's Macomb campus. Officials said the hospital has been losing business to other hospitals in the area because it hasn't been offering enough specialized services to Monroe-area residents. An architect's rendering depicts some of the changes planned for Monroe's Mercy Memorial Hospital's Macomb campus. Officials said the hospital has been losing business to other hospitals in the area because it hasn't been offering enough specialized services to Monroe-area residents.
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MONROE - Faced with declining business, the threat of a buyout, and antiquated buildings and equipment, Mercy Memorial Hospital System officials said yesterday they have begun a $40 million expansion program.

"We found we had gaps in services and that the organization needed to be modernized and updated," said Daniel Wakeman, Mercy's president and chief operating officer. "If we weren't to do this, we'd have to join with another system in the area."

The expansion includes:

w●Tearing down the original hospital building on the main Macomb Street campus to create 60 parking places.

w●Renovating the main hospital lobby and its south wing technical center.

w●Investing in new medical complexes in Dundee and Newport.

w●Building a surgery center at the system's Stewart Road campus.

w●Renovating the main hospital's surgery area.

Mr. Wakeman, who became the system's president two years ago, said Mercy Memorial has lost business to hospitals in Toledo, Detroit, and Ann Arbor because it hasn't been offering enough surgical, diagnostic, and other specialized services to Monroe-area residents.

"We've been missing out on that," he said.

Meanwhile, Mr. Wakeman and other Mercy Memorial officials said other hospital systems in the region have viewed Mercy Memorial as an excellent expansion opportunity.

"We've been under siege for years," said Pat Kosanovich, a registered nurse who also directs the Stewart Road outpatient surgery center. "This will bring the market to where it belongs."

Added Mr. Wakeman: "This organization is attractive as a takeover target. We have a strong balance sheet and a good market."

Mr. Wakeman said an early component of the system's new strategic plan - opening diagnostic labs next to physician offices throughout the county - has been a success, as has moving basic outpatient services to the main hospital's first floor.

"That met our goal to be more friendly, accessible, and convenient," he said.

Construction already has begun on the West Side Medical clinic in Dundee and will soon begin on a similar clinic in Newport - two of the county's largest growth areas. Those developments will be physician-owned, but Mercy Medical will lease space in the complex and provide ancillary services. The Dundee clinic will include an urgent-care center, Mr. Wakeman said.

Next month, the original hospital, built by the Sisters of St. Joseph in 1929 and currently housing the system's administrative offices, will be torn down to add desperately needed parking on the main Macomb Street campus.

"[Lack of parking] is one of the great complaints we have had," Mr. Wakeman said.

Lobby and south-campus renovations will begin in the fall or next winter, depending on funding and building permit status. Renovation of the technical wing will include adding state-of-the-art MRI and CAT scan machines that system officials believe will bring business back to Mercy Memorial.

The 234-bed hospital also will increase its private-room percentage from 42 to 70.

One of the most critical and ambitious projects will take place at the Stewart Road campus, where Hammes Co. of Milwaukee will begin developing a 70,000-square-foot outpatient surgery center this summer. The center will also offer cancer treatment, kidney dialysis, and other services Mercy Memorial does not have now.

"Within a year, you're going to see all kinds of things there," said Ms. Kosanovich. "I think it's exciting. It's progressive. It's what is needed in Monroe County."

Mr. Wakeman said the final phase of the expansion project will begin late next year with the renovation of the inpatient surgery department in the main hospital building.

Despite all the changes and improvements to the main hospital building, which was built in 1963, Mr. Wakeman said that by the end of the decade Mercy Memorial officials will have to decide whether to build a new hospital on the Stewart Road campus.

"We will have a big decision to make," he said.

Contact George Tanber at gtanber@theblade.com

or 734-241-3610.



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