LAKEVIEW — A long-anticipated project got underway with a ceremonial groundbreaking last Tuesday for the new Lakeview Rural Health Clinic.
Lakeview Village Manager Darin Dood was among the 40 or so community and Spectrum Health leaders who gathered on a rainy afternoon to mark the official launch of the project. Dood was excited to see it finally underway.
“Obviously, we’ve known for a while that it was coming, or they were trying to make it come, and so here it is finally,” said Dood, calling it “one of those icing on the cake” kind of things. “First it’s a rumor, then you finally talk about it, and you’re working on it with them and trying to see if we can get all the stars to align, and then they finally did and here it comes. It’s pretty cool to see it moving forward.”
Andrea Leslie, president of Spectrum Health United, Kelsey, Big Rapids and Reed City Hospitals, said the 15,800 square foot building on M-46 just east of M-91 will relocate the Lakeview Family Medicine practice, outpatient rehabilitation and walk-in clinic from their current locations, as well as provide space for specialty care services, such as general surgery and obstetrics and gynecology.
“So people don’t have to travel to Greenville or Big Rapids to see a particular surgeon,” Leslie said. “We’re pretty excited about that as well.”
The lab draw station also will move from Kelsey Hospital to the clinic. She is hoping to have a drive-through service so patients don’t need to leave their vehicles when they have blood drawn, “so that’s really exciting,” she said.
The walk-in clinic that provides “on-demand” medical services is already in Lakeview, but the current building is out of space.
“This new building will make it a lot more accessible for our team,” said Leslie.
The term “rural health clinic” is a designation granted to clinics that meet certain criteria and is more of a legal term than simply a name, Leslie explained. These clinics receive financial support from the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services.
“The intent behind them is to increase primary care access for people in rural communities,” she said. “A lot of times, if you think about primary care and the way that they function, a standalone primary care office probably would not have enough ‘margin,’ if you will, to be able to survive. So this program allows us to get a different level of reimbursement from the government to make sure that we have access to health care services in these small rural markets.”
Dood hopes that, long term, the expansion of Spectrum Health’s footprint in the Lakeview area will create a few more jobs and opportunities for residents. He knows that some of the plans will call for existing employees to be “shuffled around,” but because of its new offerings, he thinks there also will be a need for additional employees.
“To me, that’s attractive in that the job growth and the affordability for more jobs in our community’s a big deal,” Dood said.
In addition, he noted, when a major employer expands its services, the rest of the community also benefits from an economic standpoint.
“How many more prescriptions is Countryside Pharmacy going to write? How many more over-the-counter medicines are dollar stores and Leppinks going to sell because the doctor tells them, ‘Hey, go there and get some Claritin over the counter. It’s cheaper than getting a prescription,’” Dood said. “But the other thing is, now when people come to appointments, they stop and grab groceries at the store, they stop and get gas at our gas stations, they stop and grab a soda at the gas station, they stop and eat — they hit McDonald’s, they hit our restaurants.
“I think it’s important that people realize that this is good for all of our businesses here … so all the way around this is a great thing for our community and we’re excited and ready to embrace it,” he continued.
Spectrum Health has a commitment to looking at all its buildings and determining whether each is a refresh or a new build. For Lakeview, the decision was the latter, “making sure we’re there for the long haul, for decades to come,” said Leslie, and bringing a brand new, state-of-the-art facility to the community is “very, very exciting.”
“In our current location, we’re out of space, and our current building is kind of tucked in the community, in a neighborhood,” she said. “This is going out on M-46, easily accessible for those who will be coming from Howard City or any of the communities in between Greenville and Lakeview, so just really trying to make it easy.”
As far as what to do with the Kelsey Hospital building, no decision has been made yet.
“We have not really thought about those plans. Obviously we won’t just leave it,” Leslie said. “We’ll either sell it, see if there’s any buyer for it, or if not, we’ll make sure that we take care of it and it doesn’t just fall apart.”
Construction is set to begin in 10 to 14 days, with the center’s opening planned for spring 2023.
“We’re optimistic, but until we get a little closer we’re all kind of anxiously awaiting an actual date,” Leslie said, pointing to supply chain and construction issues.