Attorney General holds public forum on proposed Metro Health merger

Posted at 9:34 PM, Apr 23, 2015
and last updated 2015-04-23 21:34:42-04

WYOMING, Mich. — A standing room-only crowd piled into a hearing Thursday night held by the Michigan Attorney General’s office to allow feedback before a final decision is made on a proposed merger of non-profit Metro Health with one of the nation’s largest for-profit medical providers, Community Health Systems, Inc.

A proposed merger between a for-profit and non-profit company requires approval of the attorney general to ensure the protection of charitable assets. If approved, the Tennessee-based Community Health Systems Inc. would acquire an 80 percent interest in Metro Health.

Supporters argued the merger would improve health care and keep costs down for patients.

Turning Metro Health into a for-profit entity would mean the system would become a tax paying business in the community.

“Assuming a favorable outcome from the attorney general’s review, we look forward to partnering with Metro and CHS as we continue to expand choice, lower costs and offer the highest quality of orthopedic care to the people of West Michigan,” said Patrick Reid, CEO of Orthopedic Associates of Michigan.

Two nurses spoke and said they drove nearly six hours from Ohio to warn the attorney general’s office about the merger. They said they were employed by Affinity Medical Center, a CHS facility in Ohio, where they claim there is a perpetual shortage of supplies and necessary staff.

“We have not had a nurse’s aid in the ICU (intensive care unit) since CHS took over, leaving nurses like me to have to decide if one patient bleeds out or the other continues to breathe,” said Pam Gardner, one of the CHS nurses. “Yet nurses at CHS hospitals are forced to make these kinds of choices every single day, because CHS continually chooses to cut nursing staff to dangerous levels.”

With millions of dollars in assets on the table, the attorney general’s office will have to decide how to preserve them, a worry that was expressed by several speakers. “Any assets from the non-profit Metro Health should be placed where they can do the most good for the community,” said Lody Zwarensteyn, former president of Alliance for Health.

Zwarensteyn suggested the money go to a completely separate non-profit entity like the Grand Rapids Community Fund.

Any final decision on the merger and where the assets will be transferred should be decided by June.