Not going to happen, officials of the Grand Haven hospital say.
"North Ottawa Community Health System's Board of Trustees has been clear and emphatic with its desire to remain independent, believing it is in the best, long-term interest of our community," hospital spokeswoman Jennifer VanSkiver said. "There are no plans to change that position."
The local health system was a "hospital authority" that changed it status to "private nonprofit" in 1997. The change was granted by the authority's Board of Directors with the following conditions, called a "covenant":
* Each of the hospital's founding communities is provided a board member seat and is allowed to appoint designees without restriction. These members are responsible for representing the interests of their citizens to oversee things like what types of services are offered, as well as annual community benefit reinvestments (totaling more than $8 million annually in recent years). These benefits include: funding the Medicaid and Medicare shortfalls; bad debt and charity care; community education (in the form of things like diabetes counseling, free health fairs, screenings and bereavement services); and community sponsorships of community programs, like the Coast Guard Festival, YMCA services and a wide range of fitness activities.
* If consideration is ever given to the idea of NOCHS merging with or selling to another institution, that proposal must go to a public vote of the founding municipalities.
* NOCHS was required to pay off, over time, its debt that was carried by the authority. This was done through "lease" payments to the authority, the last of which occurred in 2010. Since then, there have been no further financial transactions between the authority and NOCHS.
"Theoretically, if a sale was to occur, NOCHS would be appraised to determine market value," VanSkiver explained. "Proceeds from the sale would be given to the authority. The authority, under Public Act 47 (enacted in 1945), must use the funds for the health care needs within the service area of the hospital, presumably the communities that founded the authority — Crockery Township, Spring Lake, Grand Haven and township, and Robinson Township. The funds would not be given to the municipalities."
Do you have a question for the Tribune? E-mail it to firstname.lastname@example.org, and type MAILBAG in the subject line. Or mail it the old-fashioned way to: Grand Haven Tribune, MAILBAG, 101 N. Third St., Grand Haven, MI 49417. We'll do our best to get you an answer! A new Mailbag appears on grandhaventribune.com three times a week: at 5 p.m. Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.