Memorial announces intent to merge with Spectrum

May 10, 2013

Spectrum CEO Richard Breon, left, and Memorial CEO Mark Vipperman, sign a letter of intent to merge.


By Rob Alway, Editor-in-Chief.

LUDINGTON — Memorial Medical Center has announced it intends to merge with Spectrum Health of Grand Rapids. The hospital signed a non-binding letter of intent to join Spectrum Health this morning during a press conference.

The agreement will preserve the hospital’s board of directors, ensuring a local voice in governing the hospital. According to a press release, other benefits include expanded healthcare services, better access to capital, improved access to medical specialists, additional professional opportunities for community physicians and retention of Memorial’s local staff.

Memorial President and CEO Mark Vipperman said all local jobs will be preserved. “That has been one of our discussions with Spectrum,” Vipperman said. “We have been assured that our current employees will be retained as employees of Spectrum Health when the merger becomes finalized and will continue to provide patients with excellent care. We believe expanded services could strengthen our position as the largest employer in Mason County.”

“I am incredibly pleased to be having this discussion with Memorial Medical Center,” Richard Breon, president and CEO of Spectrum Health said. “We are looking forward to continuing this great connection with great service in Mason County.”

Breon said Spectrum already has a working relationship with Memorial and the actual merger will take several months and requires approval of both hospital boards. He said Memorial’s financial state is strong, which makes this a good time to merge.

Spectrum health has over 19,000 employees, 1,500 physicians and 2,600 active volunteers. It operates 10 hospitals. Its annual payroll and benefits amounted to $1.1 million in 2012.

Memorial has 565 employees, a 123-member medical staff and 168 active volunteers. It is the largest employer in Mason County.

Memorial’s board voted in October 2012 that it was going to explore partnerships.

“Our primary goal in this process has been to preserve Memorial Medical Center as a viable healthcare provider in this location for future generations,” said board chairman Al Deering. “That is our key responsibility as the board. After a thorough evaluation, we believe that joining Spectrum Health is the best possible solution for the communities and people we serve, as well as for our doctors and staff.

Mason County’s health care needs are likely to see more diversity.

“Our medical staff will benefit from additional professional opportunities and enhanced support from being part of a strong, integrated healthcare system,” Dr. Steven Strbich, chief of staff said. “It will also help us in recruiting new physicians to practice here.”

“The details will be negotiated over the next few months,” Deering said. “Our discussions with Spectrum Health have been very positive and we expect no problems reaching a definitive agreement.

“Our local board will continue to have a significant decision-making authority and oversight for the hospital’s operations. We feel confident that Spectrum Health will fully support our goals in this part of west Michigan.

“This is a significant step in an excellent working relationship that has existed between our two organizations for many years,” Breon said.

Breon said the courtship is not over yet. “We are walking down the aisle but we haven’t said the vows yet.”

“Throughout the process Memorial’s board will retain the option to remain independent,” Deerings said. “However, we believe Spectrum Health understands west Michigan and shares our commitment and sense of mission. It is a very sound cultural fit for us and will allow us to servce the community even better as far into the future as we can see.”

Memorial also operates the Memorial Medical Center Foundation, which has helped offset costs of many facilities and equipment. Vipperman said the foundation will continue to exist and its funds will remain local.

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