North Ottawa Community Health System’s medical group — which includes 82 staff members, including 20 physicians — recently joined Mercy Health Physician Partners. The change will allow the Grand Haven-based health system to focus on reinvesting in the hospital and services, according to officials.
NOCHS will continue to provide services such as urgent care, bariatric, general surgery, pediatrics, hospice and palliative care. There won’t be any changes to hospital-based services such as in-patient care, urology, orthopedic, the Family Birthing Unit, and others.
In recruiting physicians to address the growing community and its needs, NOCHS President/CEO Shelleye Yaklin said most physicians want to be associated with a larger group or organization, which made the partnership with Mercy Health a logical choice.
“It allows us as an organization to say, ‘We don’t have to be spread so thin,’ and it gives us the opportunity to go back to the focusing more on what our core competency is, and that’s the hospital,” Yaklin said. “We’re going to let our partners here help expand, grow and support the group that we’ve worked so hard to put together.”
The 82 North Ottawa medical group members will join Mercy Health’s 800 providers in West Michigan.
While patients will continue seeing the same physicians in the same buildings, the changes will mostly include “behind-the-scenes of resources supporting those teams,” said Mary Boyd, chief integration officer for Mercy Health and the St. Joseph Mercy Health System.
The change will provide increased resources for providers, said Dr. Haney Assaad, an internal medicine physician and vice president of medical affairs for NOCHS.
By having opportunities for physicians from Grand Haven to Ludington, Dr. Kristen Brown, a family practice physician and vice president for Mercy Health Physician Partners, said they will be able to recruit talented doctors. She noted they also have residency programs in areas such as family medicine, emergency, obstetrics and geriatrics.
While the North Ottawa system has an independent hospital in Grand Haven and offers services such as surgery, pulmonary, gastroenterology and neurology, Assaad said there are additional specialists who can be recruited to serve the community’s needs. Mercy Health’s resources, clinics and overall larger structure will help with that, he said.
“This gives us an opportunity to be able to recruit more and more,” Assaad said.
Brown said North Ottawa and Mercy Health have similarities in their mission statements that pertain to being committed to serving patients, being fair and just, and maintaining integrity.
Brown said Mercy Health strives to have a “provider-led” mission focus and community voices. Brown said providers live in the community and their families use the same health system, so they want to provide quality services and experiences.
If North Ottawa wasn’t able to partner with Mercy for the medical group, Yaklin said the health system wouldn’t be able to grow, and it would be difficult to invest in technologies such as Mako robot and opportunities such as telemedicine.
NOCHS spokeswoman Jen VanSkiver said the health system made two promises to the community when it was formed — to provide hospital-based services and to invest in keeping people healthy. The transition for the medical group staff enables NOCHS to keep those promises and keep the same physicians and support staff, VanSkiver said.
The change doesn’t impact the board that oversees the local health system. The medical group’s own governance will remain and add individuals from Mercy Health.
In 2016, the North Ottawa Board and Mercy Health Regional Board approved a strategic affiliation agreement. Both entities remain independent with their own boards.
Through the years, the Grand Haven and Muskegon medical communities have had relationships, and Boyd said she hopes Mercy Health has proven to be a good partner by bringing specialists into the community.
Boyd said the growing services has become a “financial strain” to North Ottawa, and Mercy Health will be able to continue to provide access, choice and “reasonable cost” for care. She also hopes Mercy Health and North Ottawa working together shows their intentions to be collaborators.
Brown noted that no one was interested in a “takeover.”
“It’s ‘How do we maintain what we have and do it as good stewards and good faith to this community?’” she said.
Medical group employees were notified about a month ago about the changes, and health system employees were notified July 20 that the transition was complete. When the transition was announced, Assaad said they didn’t have any staff members leave.
Based on feedback so far from the board and their circles of influence, Yaklin said people have been supportive and welcoming of the change.