Skip to content

Bell, MGH forging partnership

January 29, 2010

January 29, 2010 – The Mining Journal

MARQUETTE COUNTY – In order to recapture funds spent on health care that leaves the Upper Peninsula in favor of downstate or Wisconsin hospitals, two county hospitals are joining forces to create jobs and improve patient access to physicians.

Announced at the annual Operation Action U.P. meeting at Northern Michigan University today, Bell Hospital and Marquette General Hospital will form a cooperative partnership intended to help recruit more physicians to the U.P.

“We have two strong hospitals today,” said MGH CEO Gary Muller. “When you add two strong together, you come up stronger.”

The partnership is not a case of the hospitals merging or one hospital purchasing the other, and each will retain its independence. The board of directors of each hospital has signed a letter of intent to form a separate not-for-profit corporation to be called Superior Health Partners.

The partnership will use the combined resources of the two institutions to recruit physicians to fill the need for health care providers in the U.P. and to encourage patients to seek care locally instead of traveling out of the area.

Currently about $100 million a year leaves the U.P. in favor of other hospitals, and if only $20 million of that could be retained by U.P. hospitals, “hundreds” of jobs would be created, according to the two hospitals.

“The money is there. It’s just being spent somewhere else,” said Bell CEO Rick Ament.

A target number of physicians to recruit has not yet been decided.

Eventually intended to include other U.P. hospitals, the Superior Health Partners will be financed by contributions from the member hospitals with resources allocated according to how much each hospital contributes.

“There is a huge number of providers needed across the U.P.,” Ament said. “We recruit in tandem instead of at cross purposes.”

Doctors hired by the corporation would work at the hospitals or could set up clinics in other U.P. cities, depending on where the specific need is. Those doctors would, in turn, require office and support staff.

Superior Health Partners would be controlled by a separate board of directors and have its own CEO. Making up the board would be two members from each of the hospital’s boards of directors and two representatives from the Marquette County community.

Cooperation between many U.P. hospitals is also hoped to stave off bigger health care organizations like Aspirus, which is based in Wisconsin and operates two hospitals in the U.P.

While talks between the two hospital boards have been ongoing since September, discussions on the individual boards began months before, Ament noted. The two hospitals have also sought input from employees and other community leaders.

“This is so exciting from the community standpoint,” Muller said. “The consistent response is very positive.”

In addition to providing the specialists U.P. patients are currently traveling to other areas to see, Superior Health Partners would allow member hospitals to cooperate on other fronts, such as using the same technology to implement electronic medical records, which would streamline transferring patients from one hospital to another.

Bell and MGH have recently applied for a $10-20 million grant from the Department of Health and Human Services for the software and hardware to implement an electronic records system.

Although the two Marquette County hospitals are currently the only members of Superior Health Partners, both Ament and Muller said they have been meeting with the boards of other U.P. hospitals who have expressed interested in the partnership.

By next week, a Web site explaining the partnership and giving additional information should be up and running at


Comments are closed.