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Guest viewpoint

Community would benefit from McLaren project

December 04, 2013 - I would like to respond to the concerns expressed about McLaren Hospital's proposed project on Sashabaw Road .

I moved to this community over 30 years ago for probably many of the same reasons that attract many others. I was beginning my career right here in Clarkston, and felt this would be a perfect area to raise my family. I was close to work, good schools, and all the conveniences.

However, I wasn't so naive to think there wasn't ever going to be any growth. In fact, I hoped and embraced it. I will admit for selfish reasons, as it directly had an impact on my job security within this community. Secondly, from what I recall, the development along Sashabaw Road is exactly what the master plan calls for and allows.

A hospital would be a perfect fit; close to I-75, probably the most ideal location it could be for the community. Reliable and vital medical care and the economic benefit would be felt in many areas.

Jobs, retail support, not as many empty homes, just name a few. In the time I have lived here, I have seen this township grow from over 20,000 residents, to over 35,000 currently. The Southeast Michigan Council of Governments (SEMCOG) predicts this to remain somewhat steady through 2040 (www.semcog.org/data/apps/comprof/profile.cfm?cpid=2115) leveling off at around 40,000. If you look at the population predictions, many will be seniors, and most will likely be remaining here. I'm sure in part because of the current services, conveniences, and projected medical care that is expected to be available.

Through the master plan, Sashabaw Road was designated several years ago to become the new development and business district for the Clarkston/Independence area. This was done to relieve the stress off downtown Clarkston and M-15, and to promote controlled growth and economy to this area so the residents weren't saddled with the entire tax bill required to maintain the services needed for a growing community.

Oh, by the way, its proximity to I-75 is ideal for traffic control that a development like this will bring. I understand traffic is a concern, I have my share of frustrations, too, but McLaren has already promised to help improve the corridor and interchange at I-75 to help offset these problems.

As long as I have lived here, there has been very little said about all the residential and strip mall developments that were popping up all over the Clarkston area. Now that a project like McLaren's who is trying to provide a vital service and jobs to the area, we want to shut the door, but we still allow the strip malls, and virtually anything else that comes along.

With all the improvements along Sashabaw, Dixie, and I-75 outside of Independence Township, it is only a matter of time before we see more people and businesses moving to this area as well, as projected by SEMCOG. I'm all for controlled growth. I get that, but as I see it, Independence Township is becoming an island to the development around us. We have to be burdened with what comes with that, but we get no real benefit from it. Why not allow it to come to us in a controlled manner, and reap as much benefit from it as we can?

As for the hospital issue on Sashabaw Road, I, for one, as I am sure you have surmised, am in favor of.

This would be a regional hospital, not just for Clarkston, but for the entire northern and northeastern communities, too. The reality is there isn't anything actually close, and some would believe that they can wait the 20 to 30 minutes, and in most situations this is true.

However, this is way too long in true medical and traumatic emergencies. The reality is you only have minutes in the most critical situations.

In the best of circumstances, the nearest hospital to this area is at least 15 to 20 minutes away. Although they are all very good, they are still further than I'd like to be if I were severely injured, having a heart attack or a stroke.

The hospital being proposed for Sashabaw is planning to provide services for all of that. I guarantee if you were dying from one of these conditions today, you would appreciate a hospital that could take care of you properly within a few minutes, particularly when time is a critical element in your mortality.

Accreditation of any critical care hospital is all measured in minutes and how quickly interventional care can be provided. There is a term we use in the medical profession when it comes to survival of trauma, heart attacks and stroke – time is muscle or time is brain. Keeping definitive care expedient and close is always going to win out over longer transport times.

Finally, in my opinion, the claim about beds and needs for Clarkston is all a bunch of hooey. I think it's more about politics and the struggle for whose beds and how to fill those beds than anything else.

Why has Henry Ford in West Bloomfield and Providence in Novi been allowed to expand the way they have the last 10 years, particularly when you have many outstanding hospitals within a stone's throw of each of those hospitals?

The argument about beds is an old one used against any hospital looking to expand. Long before Henry Ford and Providence, POH (now McLaren) wanted to build a hospital at Dixie and White Lake roads, and was stopped in that effort, and POH was forced to build across the street from their old hospital.

All because of a clause in the Certificate of Need provisions about the proximity a hospital under the same license can move beds within that proximity. I have never understood why there is such a clause.

If a hospital is licensed for a specific number of beds, what difference does it make if they are all in one facility or spread out over a wide area? Could it be to control competition? Hmm?

Frankly, I don't really care whose name is on it, but it makes sense to allow a full care hospital to build here and move whatever beds they need from an area that may not need as many to a growing area to accommodate a shifting population and market.

Bob Cesario

Retired, Captain, EMS Coordinator, Independence Township Fire Department

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