The Board of Regents and the board of directors of Metro Health Corp. each have approved a definitive affiliation agreement setting the stage for Metro Health to join the University of Michigan Health System.

This affiliation is expected to be completed by year’s end, pending final regulatory approvals and completion of the closing process. Regents approved the framework for the agreement Thursday.

Upon closing, Metro Health and UMHS will create a clinical care network that builds upon the strengths of the world-class U-M academic medical center and a very successful community-based health system. Together the two organizations will focus on bringing increased health care innovation to west Michigan and beyond.

At Thursday’s board meeting, several regents commended the Health System on the effort to expand into west Michigan. Kathy White asked about the university’s due diligence related to the affiliation, and Andrea Fischer Newman noted the importance of extending UMHS’ reach into west Michigan.

“As a physician, I think it is important that we reach all across the state, so I commend your efforts to move into west Michigan,” said Regent Shauna Ryder Diggs. “I am a fan of Grand Rapids. … We have a lot of physicians who trained at Michigan who are there. “

Regent Laurence B. Deitch added, “The communities around Grand Rapids … are among the fastest growth areas in Michigan economically, so when you look at potential economic benefit to our Health System … I think that’s a major component.”

Board of Regents Chair Mark J. Bernstein said the affiliation “sends a message that as a health system and a university, we are eager to expand.”

Michael Faas, chief executive officer of Metro Health, said that by coming together the organizations will be able to collaborate on new and improved clinical care models across the system, enhancing patient access to physicians and other care providers at both organizations.

“We are very excited about the opportunities we will have, together, to advance the boundaries of clinical practice and medical science through research discoveries and disseminating knowledge,” Faas said. 

The affiliation will enable Metro Health to further expand its primary care and specialty services, as well as enhance its use of complex medical technology.

“We, too, are excited about this relationship that should continually improve the care we can — together — provide residents of the state of Michigan. Metro Health will be essential to helping us move groundbreaking research and discovery from bench to bedside,” said Dr. Marschall Runge, U-M’s executive vice president of medical affairs, dean of the Medical School and CEO of UMHS.

Physicians, executives and community members from west Michigan will continue to serve on Metro Health boards and committees, working closely in the future with university leaders as they plot a future strategic course together.

Metro Health serves more than 250,000 patients annually from across west Michigan.  In addition to its 208-bed hospital in the Grand Rapids suburb of Wyoming, Michigan, Metro Health has a growing number of neighborhood outpatient centers and offices throughout the west side of the state, as well as a community clinic for the underserved and a student health clinic on the campus of Grand Valley State University. 

With more than 500 physicians on staff, Metro Health provides a growing number of specialty health services, including cancer treatment, heart and vascular, neurology, pulmonology and others.