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Spectrum Health to end pediatric services at NOCH

Matt DeYoung • Feb 17, 2017 at 8:00 AM

Spectrum Health has confirmed that it will end its delivery of pediatric services and on-call neonatal coverage at North Ottawa Community Hospital, effective March 1.

In response, the North Ottawa Community Health System on Thursday announced the establishment of its own pediatric medicine practice.

“We are pleased that NOCH is developing a pediatric service to serve their patients,” said Dr. David Ottenbaker, associate chief medical officer of the Spectrum Health Medical Group. “The decision to end on-call pediatric support for NOCH was made in direct response to concerns expressed by our local pediatricians. These doctors are facing unsustainable workloads, trying to balance day-to-day patient needs with hospital on-call demands and a growing community need for outpatient pediatric care. The arrangement with NOCH did not permit these physicians to effectively serve their area patients.”

Ottenbaker said multiple discussions with NOCH officials regarding pediatric coverage issues had taken place in early- to mid-2016. He added that Spectrum Health in late November gave NOCH formal notice of its intent to withdraw pediatric coverage.

“During our discussions with NOCH, Spectrum Health offered to extend the wind-down from 90 to 180 days, and to collaborate with NOCH to help them find a long-term solution,” Ottenbaker said Thursday. “NOCH agreed to these discussions and plan of action. In fact, we only received notice today that NOCH no longer wished to continue conversations and would plan for services to end on March 1, 2017.”

Meanwhile, NOCHS has tabbed Dr. Cynthia DeMeester to lead its new pediatric practice. She was recruited from Children’s Hospital of Boston, where she was the community neonatal hospitalist within the Southcoast Health System.

DeMeester holds an undergraduate degree from the University of Michigan, and earned her medical degree and doctorate in molecular biology from UCLA. She completed her residency at the University of Hawaii and is board-certified in pediatrics.

A press release from NOCHS says DeMeester has extensive experience working inside hospitals with inpatients and newborns, as well as in an office-based practice focusing on well child care, developmental assessments and coordinating care for medically complex children.

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DeMeester’s practice will be in the Dunewood Medical Building at 1310 Wisconsin St., on the main NOCH campus. The office has begun scheduling appointments for patients, which she will begin seeing March 23, according to the local health system.

DeMeester will be joined by certified pediatric nurse practitioner Karly Hiser. Hiser most recently practiced in Pittsburgh, where she served patients as part of Children’s Community Pediatrics, and also worked within Children’s Express Care. She has extensive experience working on inpatient units, specifically the teaching hospitals of George Washington University and Duke University, NOCHS said in the press release.

“Beyond their outstanding credentials having experience in inpatient and outpatient care, they are both natives of West Michigan with a love of community health, which makes them the total package for our community,” North Ottawa Medical Group Executive Director Connie Gnegy said in the press release. “We are delighted to welcome them home and into the NOCHS family.”

NOCHS has had a labor and delivery contract with Spectrum Health for more than a decade. During that time, Spectrum Health physicians have been credentialed at NOCHS, enabling them to consult in the emergency room and care for inpatients.

NOCHS administration and its Board of Trustees said they were surprised to hear from Spectrum Health that their decision has been under consideration for at least two years, but was not disclosed to the the Grand Haven-based health system until Nov. 29, 2016. NOCHS officials said had they not already been actively recruiting primary care physicians nationally, this move would have resulted in the loss of critical services.

NOCHS officials also said the timing of this decision, announced shortly after Grand Haven Township citizens voted Nov. 8 to overturn zoning rules related to the Spectrum Health/Holland Hospital Health Pointe project on the Nov. 8 ballot, is particularly troublesome.

“The systematic elimination of local services like this is the first of what was predicted by many during last spring’s Health Pointe approval proceedings in Grand Haven Township,“ Dr. Jack Roossien Jr., chairman of the NOCHS Board of Trustees, said in the press release. “Spectrum Health repeatedly, publicly rebuked these concerns promising to support our hospital, as well as increase primary care and specialty services in our community.

“Health Pointe’s stated goal was to ‘offer our community more choice,’” Roossien continued. “We now know what ‘choice’ means. Local families would have been given the ‘choice’ to travel 45 minutes to Grand Rapids or 35 minutes south to Holland for birthing services, and ultimately women’s health services. This is unacceptable and completely unnecessary.”

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The following is the full press release from the North Ottawa Community Health System, sent to the Tribune on Thursday afternoon, Feb. 16:

NOCHS PEDIATRIC SERVICE LINE ESTABLISHED

North Ottawa Medical Group, a division of NOCHS, is pleased to announce the establishment of its newest practice area, Pediatric Medicine. Cynthia DeMeester, MD, PhD, is returning to her hometown of West Michigan to lead the practice. Dr. DeMeester was recruited from Children’s Hospital of Boston, where she was the Community Neonatal Hospitalist within Southcoast Health System.

She holds an undergraduate degree from the University of Michigan, and earned her medical degree and doctorate in molecular biology from UCLA. She completed her residency at the University of Hawaii and is Board Certified in Pediatrics.

She has extensive experience working inside hospitals with inpatients and newborns, as well as in an office-based practice focusing on well child care, developmental assessments and coordinating care for medically complex children. Her office will start seeing patients March 23 and has already begun scheduling appointments at (616) 844-4525. Her practice will be in the Dunewood Medical Building at 1310 Wisconsin St., on the main hospital campus.

She will be joined by Certified Pediatric Nurse Practitioner, Karly Hiser, who will also practice in this office. Karly is also originally from West Michigan but comes to us most recently from Pittsburgh, PA where she served patients as part of Children’s Community Pediatrics, and also worked within Children’s Express Care. Similar to Dr. DeMeester, Karly has extensive experience working on inpatient units – specifically the teaching hospitals of George Washington University and Duke University.

“Beyond their outstanding credentials having experience in inpatient and outpatient care, they are both natives of West Michigan with a love of community health, which makes them the total package for our community,” said Connie Gnegy, North Ottawa Medical Group Executive Director. “We are delighted to welcome them home and into the NOCHS family.”

SPECTRUM HEALTH MAKES UNPRECEDENTED MOVE TO PULL OUT OF LABOR & DELIVERY CONTRACT; TERMINATE CREDENTIALS FOR ER/INPATIENT CARE

The timing of Dr. DeMeester and Karly Hiser’s arrival to Grand Haven is critical, as Spectrum Health recently informed NOCHS’ Administration that it plans to sever a decades-long relationship with the Grand Haven community. As of March 1, Spectrum has decided that its Grand Haven pediatric group will no longer care for newborns at NOCHS, following delivery. Further, the physicians in the group will also terminate their credentials at NOCHS, meaning they will no longer care for patients in the ER or within the hospital.

NOCHS MEDIA STATEMENT FEB. 16, 2017, CONTINUED

This decision would have immediately affected more than 100 expectant mothers, who are scheduled to give birth at NOCHS after Feb. 28, 2017. Further, it would likely have caused a long-term ripple effect throughout NOCHS jeopardizing the viability of Women’s Health (more than 6,000 patients and nearly 400 expectant moms) and our ability to care for pediatric patients anywhere in the hospital continuum.

Historically, in order to address this community need and avoid duplication of services, NOCHS has fully supported the Spectrum Health-owned pediatric group in Grand Haven. NOCHS has had a labor and delivery contract with this group for more than a decade and all of its physicians have been credentialed at NOCHS enabling them to consult in the ER and care for inpatients.

NOCHS Administration and Board of Trustees were surprised to hear from Spectrum Health that their decision has been under consideration for at least two years, but was not disclosed to NOCHS until November 29, 2016. Had NOCHS not already been actively and successfully recruiting primary care physicians nationally, finding Dr. DeMeester and securing her commitment from Boston may not have been possible within a 90-day timeframe, resulting in the loss of critical services like these in Northern Ottawa County.

The timing of this decision, announced shortly after Grand Haven Township citizens voted to overturn zoning related to Spectrum’s Health Pointe project on the Nov. 8 ballot, is particularly troublesome. Spectrum Health also revealed in meeting with NOCHS Administration that Grand Haven is the only community in the region where it is allowing one of its pediatric groups to pull its labor and delivery services from a local hospital and its credentials for inpatient care.

“The systematic elimination of local services like this is the first of what was predicted by many during last spring’s Health Pointe approval proceedings in Grand Haven Township,“ said Jack Roossien, Jr. MD NOCHS Board Chair. “Spectrum Health repeatedly, publicly rebuked these concerns promising to support our hospital, as well as increase primary care and specialty services in our community. Health Pointe’s stated goal was to, ‘offer our community more choice.’ We now know what ‘choice’ means. Local families would have been given the ‘choice’ to travel 45 minutes to Grand Rapids or 35 minutes south to Holland for birthing services – and ultimately Women’s Health services. This is unacceptable and completely unnecessary.” (Health Pointe is not state-approved for birthing services or inpatient care.)

Dr. DeMeester and Nurse Practitioner Hiser will team up with Mercy Health Physician Partners to support and advance the Labor and Delivery services in NOCHS’ Family Birthing Unit going forward. This collaboration is another example of the benefits coming out of the affiliation agreement between NOCHS and Mercy Health that was announced in spring 2016.

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The following is the response from Spectrum Health, sent to the Tribune on Thursday evening, Feb. 16:

Spectrum Health To End Neonatal Pediatric On-Call Service At North Ottawa Community Hospital March 1

Result of Unsustainable Physician Workloads, Increasing Outpatient & Primary Care Demand 

Grand Rapids, Mich., February 16, 2017 – Spectrum Health confirmed today it will wind down its delivery of pediatric services and on-call neonatal coverage at North Ottawa Community Hospital (NOCH) to focus on meeting increasing community demands for outpatient pediatric care. Service will continue at NOCH through March 1, 2017, when the hospital begins its own pediatric service.



“We are pleased that NOCH is developing a pediatric service to serve their patients,” said David Ottenbaker, MD, associate chief medical officer, Spectrum Health Medical Group. “The decision to end on-call pediatric support for NOCH was made in direct response to concerns expressed by our local pediatricians. These doctors are facing unsustainable workloads, trying to balance day-to-day patient needs with hospital on-call demands and a growing community need for outpatient pediatric care. The arrangement with NOCH did not permit these physicians to effectively serve their area patients.”



Ottawa County is one of the fastest growing counties in Michigan and is underserved from a primary care standpoint. Services such as outpatient pediatric care have been identified as urgent community needs, requiring health care options in the region to expand. 

Multiple discussions with NOCH regarding pediatric coverage issues had taken place in early to mid-2016, said Ottenbaker, adding that Spectrum Health gave NOCH formal notice of its intent to withdrawn pediatric coverage on November 29, 2016.



“During our discussions with NOCH, Spectrum Health offered to extend the wind down from 90 to 180 days and to collaborate with NOCH to help them find a long term solution. NOCH agreed to these discussions and plan of action,” said Ottenbaker. “In fact, we only received notice today that NOCH no longer wished to continue conversations and would plan for services to end on March 1, 2017.”

“Our physicians are committed to serving the Grand Haven community and look forward to offering greater access to outpatient pediatric care in the future,” said Ottenbaker.



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