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McLaren hospital rejected plans get mixed reviews



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January 01, 2014 - Plans to build a hospital in Independence Township have been rejected again. Officials say residents ought to be angered by the decision.

The decision was handed down by Judge Colleen O'Brien of Oakland County Circuit Court on Dec .20 after McLaren Health Care Corp. sued the Michigan Department of Community Health. The state agency had rejected a certificate-of-need application (CON) to move 200 beds from McLaren's hospital in Pontiac to Independence Township.

MDCH rejected McLaren under the CON process, which oversees how many hospital beds are needed in the state.

McLaren filed an appeal in June after the MDCH rejected a CON application originally filed in 2012. After that appeal was rejected, another appeal was filed in March.

In May, the CON was rejected for the third time in two years when a non-profit filed suit to fight the MDHC in Oakland County Circuit Court.

McLaren wants to build a 443,000 square foot, $303 million hospital on the McLaren health care campus located at Sashabaw Road and Bow Pointe Drive.

During the Dec. 20 hearing, representatives for McLaren argued for the need of a hospital in the area. An attorney for Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson was also present to support McLaren, while the MDCH argued against the need for a hospital in the area.

Patterson said residents should be angry with the decision. Independence Township Supervisor Pat Kittle agreed with Patterson and said residents need a closer hospital.

Patterson said the hospital would have greatly benefited the county and the township by investing $700 million over a 10 year period and creating 10,000 new jobs.

Jobs in the medical field are part of his Medical Main Street Emerging Sector Plan, which aims to diversify jobs in Oakland County to step away from a dependence on jobs in the auto industry, he said.

"I'm fighting so hard because this is what we need to diversify the economy in Oakland County" said Patterson. "We have been dependent on the auto industry and if we can get a hospital with 2,000 jobs, that would be ideal."

Independence Township resident Michael Powell said it's time for McLaren and township officials to give up the fight.

"Personally, I believe it's time for McLaren to give it up," said Powell. "I'm not happy with the way McLaren has bought and paid for politicians to try to change the CON law to get this hospital."

Powell said in the past 30 years he and his family have lived in this township, they have been happy with hospitals and their distance.

"Especially when we've been to many of these hospitals lately only to see them sitting with empty rooms every time we've visited," Powell said. "Fighting these rulings is making it that much easier to oppose the hospital."

Patterson and Kittle disagree.

"Residents need a closer hospital than we have here today," said Patterson. "In an emergency situation, 15 to 20 minutes can be a life or death situation."

Kittle said the safety of residents is his foremost concern and agrees with Patterson that 15-20 minutes to the hospital is way too long in an emergency.

Kittle said the senior population in Independence Township is booming, and the issue he is most concerned with is the safety of residents.

"Independence Township is no longer a bedroom community," said Kittle. "We are a thriving community with an aging senior population."

Kittle said anyone in a life or death situation would agree too.

"Have you ever seen I-75 in the morning? It could take 45 minutes or more to get to hospital versus having a state-of-the-art hospital in our back yard," he said.

Besides safety concerns, the economic benefits are a huge bonus, he said.

He added in addition to the extra ability of the community to receive quality health care, it would also provide many jobs, from laborers needed to build the hospital to the medical personnel needed to staff the facility.

Paterson said Oakland County has provided a supportive role in McLaren's fight.

"We are in a supportive role (McLaren CEO Philip Incarnati) and his team are very good," said Patterson, adding the fight to build the hospital is far from over.

"This is too big of a deal and we can go to Michigan Legislature," he said. "Oakland County will continue their support to build the hospital."

Kittle said one of the methods McLaren will use is to get the CON Language changed.

Regardless if the hospital is built or not, McLaren has committed $1.5 million in funding for a $4 million road improvement project on the Sashabaw Road corridor at interstate I-75 ramps and the Waldon Road intersection.

McLaren's top administrative officers were on vacation and unavailable for comment.

Regardless if the hospital is built or not, McLaren has committed $1.5 million in funding for a $4 million road improvement project on the Sashabaw Road corridor at interstate 1-75 ramps and the Waldon Road intersection.

McLaren's top administrative officers were on vacation and unavailable for comment.

Staff writer covering Independence Township and Clarkston area.
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