By Pat Maurer
There was a sigh of relief from Clare officials at the City Commission meeting and from many downtown businesses after a press release from MyMichigan Health Monday said the hospital will remain and expand and upgrade the facilities at the current downtown site rather than move out of the City’s center.
The release said, “After several months of planning and review, including a six-month economic impact study, a decision has been made about the future of My Michigan Medical Center Clare.”
It continued, “Having served the community for more than 70 years, the Medical Center plans to remain in its existing downtown location and will proceed with an expansion and revitalization of its current facility.”
Construction is expected to begin in 2025.
More than a year and a half has passed since concerns were first raised at a Clare City Commission meeting about the possibility of the hospital moving out of the downtown area.
At that December 20th meeting in 2021, Commissioner Gus Murphy reported that the hospital, MyMichigan Health Clare wanted to build a new, larger facility in a new location, possibly at the north end of the City.
“What can we do to keep them here?” she asked at that meeting. “They are a huge asset for our downtown. I don’t see this being good for our businesses. It would be a big loss for Clare.” She cited the business the hospital brings to the downtown both through the employees spending their lunch breaks downtown and by people who shop or eat when they come for medical services. “It’s so convenient having them downtown,” she said, “It’s huge for business.”
At that meeting, City Manager Jeremy Howard said he had spoken with Marita Hattem-Schiffman, president of MyMichigan Medical Centers in Clare, Alma and Mt. Pleasant in late 2020 when she told him about the possibility. “We would love it if you could stay in downtown if we could make it work,” he said he told her at that time.
At the time of that meeting Hattem-Schiffman responded to Review questions about it, saying, “You might recall back at my very first Council meeting in December 2019, I affirmed that MyMichigan Health was committed completely replacing our existing medical center…The facility is sufficiently out-of-date…making it difficult to maintain its infrastructure, provide care efficiently and add much needed services for our community.”
Monday’s release changed that possibility of a move out of downtown to “We are here to stay!” continuing with, “The trust we have built with the Clare Community is nothing short of amazing. Through our review of project options, feedback from neighbors and data gathered with our recent study, we heard loud and clear just how important it was to remain right where we are – right in the heart of our beautiful downtown,” Hattem Schiffman said. “What’s more, there are just so many benefits being positioned here near outstanding businesses and established traffic corridors that serve surrounding communities. This allows us to continue to serve not just those here in Clare, but all those beyond our great county with ease of access to our Medical Center and our services.”
Hattem Schiffman continued, “As you can imagine, with a project of this size and scope, we have been hard at work analyzing many opportunities and determined that we have adequate property and available space in our current location to build out new areas and then undergo a revitalization of what remains. This construction is not about renovating something old – we are building new and comprehensively renovating what remains.”
The massive overall project s expected to cost approximately $52 million, the release said, with construction to occur in up to four phases, beginning with the Emergency Department. The next step is detailed design work which is anticipated to take 12 months.
“Financial pressures on rural hospitals across the nation create perilous threats to care, and that is one more reason that a phased approach in our current location is the best direction.” Hattem-Schiffman said. “However, no matter the phases involved, for the good of all those we serve, we have and remain committed to replacing our aging Medical Center.”
Next steps for the project include acquiring detailed design work necessary to validate cost and time, the release said, as well as is needed to bid out the construction. Once design is complete, approvals will then be obtained from the Medical center’s Board of Directors and then by the health system’s board in order to obtain project funding.”
“Like you, we are all anxious for this project to get underway,” said Glenn King, R.N., vice president of Nursing at MyMichigan Medical Center Clare. “As always, we will ensure any disruptions to our patients, community and staff will be minimal and communicated well in advance.”