2015-07-25 / News

MSHS Signs Affiliation Agreement with Munson Healthcare

By Erich T. Doerr

Mackinac Straits Health System and Munson Healthcare have formed an affiliation that grants St. Ignace access to a broad range of Munson services. The partnership is hoped to foster collaboration in laboratory, pathology, purchasing, and development of sub-specialty clinics. St. Ignace also hopes to use the alliance to expand its physician recruitment, fix its information technology and electronic medical records problems, and improve patient access to specialty care like orthopedic surgery and cardiology that a small hospital can’t always provide on its own.

The relationship does not affect the ownership or management of Mackinac Straits Health System or that of its clinics and other facilities. The hospital will remain a private and independent organization, and the changeover will also have no effect on the number of people employed at the hospital.

Such partnerships in healthcare are becoming more common, said Pat Shannon, board chair at Mackinac Straits Health System. Electronic medical records and other medical technology costs are skyrocketing, leading some hospitals to seek out partnerships to provide the upgraded services. Some hospitals, like Cheboygan Memorial, have been bought out.

“It’s all about access, quality, and financial efficiencies,” Mr. Shannon said. “That is what affiliations are all about. There are very few local hospitals left anymore.”

“Munson,” he said, “can work well in this particular area.”

Mr. Shannon said the partnership will ultimately lead to better care for patients, better training for the hospital staff and directors, and an exchange of information between hospitals. The St. Ignace hospital already has an ambulatory surgery unit, but the Munson relationship will provide patient access to additional forms of surgery, such as hip replacements.

The St. Ignace hospital is the first in the Upper Peninsula to join the Traverse City-based Munson system as a formal affiliate. Mackinac Straits Health System will be the fourth critical access hospital in the Munson system, along with Charlevoix Area Hospital, Kalkaska Memorial Health Center, and Paul Oliver Memorial Hospital in Frankfort. Munson also has a presence in Cadillac, Otsego, Grayling, Gaylord, and Manistee, in addition to its Munson Medical Center, Northwest Michigan Surgery Center, and Munson Home Health in Traverse City. Mackinac Straits Health System has a close partnership with the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians, which shares the St. Ignace hospital building, and it operates the medical center on Mackinac Island and has clinics at Mackinaw City, Cheboygan, and Naubinway.

Mr. Shannon said Mackinac Straits Health System values its partnership with the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians. It sought out Munson as a partner believing it will work well with both the area’s Native and non-Native residents.

“This is good for the region,” Mr. Shannon said. “This is good for the whole Straits area and all the cultures we have here.”

Hospital discussions about a partnership with several other area health care organizations, including MidMichigan Health and McLaren Health Care, were never formalized, he said. The hospital first spoke with Munson about a possible partnership four years ago. The discussions leading to the agreement took place during the last several months.

St. Ignace, Mr. Shannon said said, wanted to affiliate with a strong system but maintain local control of the hospital in its new deal.

“We were looking for a good partner who is sensitive to the needs of northern Michigan, especially the Straits area,” he said. “We think we’ve found it in Munson.”

“Mackinac Straits and Munson share a common set of cultural values and a focus on quality,” said Munson CEO and President Ed Ness in a release. He noted Munson’s two biggest priorities for the future are preserving and improving local access to care and developing a regional health care delivery system.

Mackinac Straits Health System President and CEO Rod Nelson said he believes the agreement represents the shared goals for keeping health care as close to home as possible and improving health.

“Both organizations share a common set of cultural values and a focus on delivering highquality health care services to our northern Michigan communities,” Mr. Nelson said in a release. “With clinics in Cheboygan, Mackinaw City, Mackinac Island, and in St. Ignace, we know rural health care. We also know Munson Healthcare to be a respected, regional system that delivers sustainable, close-to-home services, to local people by local people.”

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