Source: Sherman Publications

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Taking issue with McLaren

by Mary Keck

April 03, 2013

From Independence Township resident Henry Woloson's point of view, opposing the proposed McLaren Hospital project is a matter of local, state and national interest.

"I think it is time for Township citizens who have no agenda other than to act in the best interests of our community and State to stand up and be counted if they are opposed to this project," said Woloson.

He believes building a new hospital will contribute to the national deficit and sites a study conducted by Michigan State University to support his argument.

"It is estimated that Medicare will run out of funds in less than 10 years," said Woloson. "Medicare spending at hospitals for periods longer than needed and for tests that are also of questionable medical validity are frequently cited as reasons for Medicare costs greatly exceeding the amount of funds being received to replenish the Trust Fund," he said.

A February 2013 study published in the journal Plos One supports regulation of hospital beds.

Lead researcher, Paul Delamater of MSU, told MSUToday the study concludes, "current regulation of hospital beds is justified" because it keeps "the number of hospital beds aligned with the health care needs of the population."

McLaren hopes to move 200 beds from their Pontiac hospital and build a new $300 million healthcare facility on Sashabaw road, but bed regulation is holding them back.

The Michigan Department of Community Health (MDCH) issued a proposed denial in response to McLaren's Certificate of Need (CON) application last year because McLaren was not able to "demonstrate that there is an unmet need in the community," said Tulika Bhattacharya of the MDCH.

Since their CON application was not accepted, McLaren continues to appeal the decision and has approached building the hospital from a legislative route. State Senator Mike Kowall proposed a bill to amend Michigan's CON law to allow the beds and alter membership on the CON commission, but the amendment has not passed.

Despite the state's CON law, McLaren Healthcare's Senior Vice President Greg Lane insists, "We continue to move forward. We continue to expend funds on the project with our consultants, with our lobbyists. We are fully committed to this project."

At the Independence Township Board's last regular meeting, the board voted unanimously to approve a resolution in support of the hospital. It focused on the jobs the new facility would create and McLaren's willingness to invest in infrastructure improvements.

During the meeting Supervisor Pat Kittle stated, "we put together a resolution that we could send out to counter some of the negative press and some of the special interest groups and go on the offensive." He pointed out, "It is a long ambulance ride to St. Joe's or Genesys."

According to Independence Township Fire Department Staff Captain and Paramedic Mitch Petterson, it takes about 20 minutes for an ambulance to transport a patient to a nearby hospital.

"I am opposed to this project but that does not mean I am a member of the press or part of a special interest group," said Woloson. He feels the Township Board should honor the decision made by the MDCH to deny McLaren's CON.

"Your collective action to overrule this important and valuable Committee by your recent resolution is highly irresponsible in light of the proven cost savings that have resulted from CON Committee oversight," he told the Board in a letter.

From Woloson's point of view, "driving 14 miles to St. Joseph Hospital or 21 miles to Genesys Hospital can be a contribution by the residents of Independence Township towards reducing our massive National Debt."

In addition, Woloson thinks traffic congestion due to events at DTE Energy Music Theatre in the summer could cause the "EMS to drive the 14 or 19 miles to another hospital rather than fight the traffic" anyway.

It isn't only the traffic that has Woloson concerned about the current hospital plans, however.

"The proposed hospital is going to place heavy demands on our municipal water and sewer system," he noted. "I have not seen where McLaren has unequivocally stated they will pay the estimated $2 million needed for those upgrades."

At a Board of Trustees meeting in February, Lane said McLaren has not yet met with Linda Richardson, the Director of Public Works, to discuss the impact of the hospital on the water system, but he indicated McLaren plans to do so.

Although he refers to traffic and water, Woloson says his opposition to the McLaren project is fueled by his "legitimate interest in my community, and I define my community as not only my local community, but my state and national community."

"I think people need to start understanding that this is a microcosm of a much larger issue, and if we are going to be addressing deficits, we need to start in our backyards."