Hospital officials expect affiliation to be benefit for patients, area residents

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WEST BRANCH — While there aren’t any major planned changes after the recent affiliation between MidMichigan Health and the former West Branch Regional Medical Center, officials at the now-combined hospital group say the affiliation will provide a major benefit to area residents and patients at the West Branch facility.

MidMichigan Health CEO Diane Postler-Slattery told the Herald during a phone interview last week that the biggest advantage is that the facilities will be working together toward a common goal.

“Now, as a system, we’ll be working together toward being in the top quartile in the nation for patient experience, quality outcome, financial performance, employee engagement and physician, nurse practitioner and physician assistant engagement,” Postler-Slattery said. “I am sure WBRMC was doing many of these already. Now we can collaborate as a system and have goals and will be working closely together to achieve those goals.”

MidMichigan Medical Center - West Branch President and former WBRMC CEO Bob McGrail said the affiliation will provide more tools to West Branch to meet those goals.

“We’ve always strived to provide high-quality care,” he said. “But we had limited resources. Now we have the resources available that we need.”

Postler-Slattery added that MidMichigan Health’s tagline, “We’re more together,” is fitting.

“The more we do together, the better it is for our patients,” she said. “We’re in the business of taking care of people.”

While many questions have been answered with the affiliation, other questions remain as to what the final result will be as the facility moves forward as a MidMichigan Health facility. One thing that is known, Postler-Slattery said, is that MidMichigan Health wants to keep as many services available locally as possible.

“One of our founding principles is that we want to keep as much local health care as possible,” she said. “We’re absolutely looking at what additional services we can bring to the community. Right now we don’t have all those identified. In the next six months we will begin to see some of those.”

Postler-Slattery said there will be no reduction of services at the MidMichigan Health clinic on M-30 just down the road from the hospital, but there could be growth there going forward.

“We are planning some growth in that clinic,” she said. “It will continue as is with stronger provider representation.”

She added that the construction of that facility a couple of years ago certainly helped in the overall picture when it came to deciding to affiliate with West Branch.

“I would say it was part of the process,” she said. “MidMichigan Health, we have enjoyed the West Branch community. We have found a lot of success. We’ve had a lot of patients seek out care in our clinic.”

Other questions that remain include the status of divisions of the former Tolfree Health System, such as the Tolfree Foundation and Hospice of Helping Hands. Postler-Slattery said on day one there are no major changes with those organizations, aside from naming. But integration teams are being put in place to decide how they will fit in with MidMichigan Health in the grand scheme of things.

Whatever happens, she said there is an agreement that those employees will still be MidMichigan Health employees. However, depending on that integration, they might find themselves in different roles with the corporation. She said she is again looking for around a six-month time frame when it comes to making decisions about how those groups will proceed.

“We want to do the integration right,” Postler-Slattery said. “We were successful with the Alpena integration. When you take the time and do it right, everyone is more satisfied with the results.”

As for money raised by the Tolfree Foundation, MidMichigan Health has committed that any money raised will be used in the West Branch area. Other developments, such as the Tolfree Wellness Park and the new dog park, are still on task.

MidMichigan Health signs now replace the old WBRMC signs around the hospital’s property. Postler-Slattery and McGrail said everyone is excited to have the affiliation complete.

“We’re very excited,” Postler-Slattery said. “I had the opportunity to be there Monday morning when the employees were receiving their new name badges. I have to say it was just a wonderful, wonderful day. The employees were engaging and excited.”

“I want to echo Diane’s comments,” McGrail said. “We were there from 6:30 in the morning until 9 or 9:30. Dozens came in, even many on their day off.”

Postler-Slattery added that while the affiliation is completed, the work is not yet done.

“Getting the deal done is half the work,” she said. “Integration is the most important work.”

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