“We are committed to providing the best patient care experience in Muskegon,” said Gary Allore, Mercy Health Muskegon’s president, on Feb. 2, while addressing more than 30 executive directors from local non-profit agencies at United Way of the Lakeshore. Leaders met to hear updates about Mercy Health’s new medical center and progress of the consolidation project.
It was clear that guests expected to see renderings of the new facility and updates on how the building is coming along. What most did not anticipate was Allore’s question to the group that opened up over an hour of dialogue:
“We want to hear from you… how are we doing?”
Community leaders were overwhelmingly positive about the significant impact Mercy Health’s legacy has had on Muskegon. Their questions and feedback addressed the upcoming phase Mercy Health is entering into as an organization – when all hospital services come together at the new medical center.
Following are just some of the highlights from the conversation.
Will the new hospital be big enough? With the medical technology available now, there are many procedures that used to require two- or three-day stays that are now a one-night stay. Even outpatient procedures, such as hip and joint replacements, are now performed at the ambulatory surgery center– freeing up beds for trauma and other inpatient cases. The hospital’s infrastructure is designed to handle growth during times of increased inpatient volumes, There is also capacity to go to 11 floors in the future, if needed.
“Our goal, long-term, is to have all of the acute services together so we’re not duplicating things all over town. We will use that efficiency we gain on the hospital side to invest in the ambulatory settings,” Allore said.
Is there a community plan to decrease unnecessary utilization of the emergency departments? Before the merger between Hackley and Mercy Hospitals ten years ago, and because of community behaviors, the hospitals in Muskegon strongly promoted short wait times and convenient availability to be seen in the emergency departments. Over time, people became accustomed to using these locations as their provider of care. Approximately 30 to 40 percent of ED visits are not true emergencies, but a barrier our health system has faced in recent years was developing the primary care network – enough so that patients are referred to the right setting at the right time. Now that an expanded base of primary care options are available, we plan to promote these (Primary Care vs. Urgent Care vs. ED) to the community and educate our patients on where to go for health care services.
You need to highlight your community benefit ministry efforts. “When we talk about community benefit across the nation for Trinity Health, they’re always saying – go to Muskegon… they’ve got it figured out! It’s our mission, it’s why we exist and it gives us a strong local advantage,” said Allore.
As a nonprofit, Mercy Health Muskegon provided over $18 million in community benefit in fiscal year 2017, and more than $3 million in financial assistance, impacting 208,700 lives.
Kate Kesteloot Scarbrough, executive director of Mediation and Restorative Services in Muskegon, echoed Allore’s sentiment, saying, “It’s because you’ve made (community benefit) normal… Mercy Health has had a long-term commitment to do that kind of work in our community, and we’ve become used to the idea that our health system is embedded and committed to its people. It’s not just something you to check off a box on a tax form. You’ve made it how you do business, and how we work together. And that’s been true for a long time.”
Christine Robere, president of United Way of the Lakeshore, elaborated on Mercy Health’s impact on the West Michigan community. “It’s not an accident that Muskegon and Mercy Health are doing so well. You really have an incredible staff and culture where you’ve allowed your colleagues to be involved in community collaboration. As we look at your development of the community health worker groups – and the need for case management to sustain people in their homes, it really was evolutionary for our local population. The continued empowerment of your staff to keep collaborating has really helped our agency leaders do a better job as well. There are probably more case workers from Mercy Health in Muskegon County than anywhere else in Michigan, and you walk with these individuals the entire way until they’re successful. It’s not just a Band-Aid approach with you… it’s your mission.”
What are you doing to connect with the faith-based minority groups in our community?
The pastors of our Mission Services Committee are further developing relationships with local congregations. Mercy Health looks forward to visiting and hosting similar roundtables with local religious leaders.
Mercy Health thanks United Way of the Lakeshore for hosting this community roundtable conversation. It was a great opportunity to get the pulse on what the local community is saying about Mercy Health and help us understand how to further engage with the community during this exciting time in the health system’s – and the community’s – future.
Mercy Health is planning to continue these conversations with community members about how we can improve our mission to be a transforming healing presence. If you know of a community group interested in hosting a roundtable conversation, please email Erin Patrick, PR and communications manager, at email@example.com.