A new initiative to integrate cancer care services in west Michigan will soon give patients broader access to state-of-the-art, comprehensive diagnosis, treatment and support across leading health care institutions.
The Cancer Network of West Michigan, a joint venture between Mercy Health and Metro Health-University of Michigan Health, leverages the combined resources and capabilities of the two west Michigan health systems and Michigan Medicine, the University of Michigan’s academic medical center.
The boards of Metro Health and Trinity Health-Michigan had approved the entities entering into an agreement. The U-M Board of Regents gave approval to execute the agreement at its regular meeting Dec. 5. The parties are working to finalize the agreement over the next several weeks, with an expected effective date of Jan. 1, 2020.
The innovative relationship will allow the institutions to collaborate to advance cancer treatment for families in west Michigan. The collaboration addresses the growing needs of west Michigan by expanding expertise and access to an extent that none of the organizations could achieve alone.
The connection to Michigan Medicine will ultimately provide local community hospitals with a direct tie to advanced clinical trials, emerging protocols and internationally renowned researchers. In the future, patients will access that expertise through their local physicians at Mercy Health and Metro Health.
“Together, we can create a world-class comprehensive program for our communities, greater than any of us could create independently, all while keeping our patients at the center of all we do,” said Clifford Cho, a surgical oncologist at Michigan Medicine and interim executive director of the Cancer Network.
“This unique collaboration will help support patients by connecting them to the vast resources available across our respective facilities, including prevention, diagnosis, treatment and advanced research.”
Combined, the three award-winning west Michigan facilities treat 13,658 cancer patients a year. They bring to the collaboration a combined 63 cancer specialists and subspecialists, along with access to the latest research, treatments and clinical trials.
“Cancer is one of the most complicated diseases to treat, and increasingly sophisticated treatments are available,” said Hyung T. Kim, president of Mercy Health Saint Mary’s in Grand Rapids. “We are committed to bringing the best possible cancer programs to west Michigan patients and improving access to advanced therapies so patients and families can stay in our region.”
Services will be offered across three facilities in west Michigan, including Lacks Cancer Center at Mercy Health Saint Mary’s, Johnson Family Cancer Center at Mercy Health Muskegon, and Metro Health, broadening access to a wide range of cancer services. These services will be supported by the outstanding clinicians at each of these facilities, and backed by the expertise of Michigan Medicine’s nationally ranked cancer center.
“Mercy Health has a long-standing, positive reputation for delivering high quality cancer care in west Michigan,” said Gary Allore, president of Mercy Health Muskegon. “We look forward to collaborating across west Michigan to further the fight against cancer.”
The Cancer Network of West Michigan will build on a foundation established by a radiation oncology collaborative already linking radiation oncology services between Michigan Medicine and Metro Health, and between Michigan Medicine and Mercy Health. Extending and integrating this cooperation across the three locations ensures cancer programs continue to grow to meet the needs of west Michigan.
“This collaboration allows us to also provide deep subspecialty capabilities and work toward giving our patients access to research and clinical trials along with the highest quality care and expertise,” said Peter Hahn, president and CEO of Metro Health-University of Michigan Health.
Even as new treatments have reduced the mortality rate, the number of new cancer cases continues to increase as the population ages. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention predicts the number of new cases will have increased 24 percent between 2010 and 2020.
All hospital providers and staff will remain employed by their respective health systems, and no staff reductions will take place as a result of this agreement.
The Cancer Network also builds on a larger statewide strategy between Michigan Medicine and Trinity Health-Michigan, of which Mercy Health is a part. The two organizations announced an affiliation agreement in 2012, paving the way for closer collaborations in clinical care, research and medical education.
Michigan Medicine and Metro Health-University of Michigan Health have been affiliated since 2016.
“We want people to continue to get their cancer care with people and at places they have come to trust. As our collaboration grows, people will notice that they now have access to newer, broader and deeper resources made possible by the integration across this network,” Cho said. “We want to build the kind of compassionate expertise that our patients and community deserve.”