When representatives of Sparrow Medical Group (SMG) presented their final site plan for approval by the city planning commission back in December, a global pandemic wasn’t on anybody’s mind. A few months later though, the human and economic toll of COVID-19 affects just about everything including construction plans. In mid-March, when Governor Whitmer ordered most non-life sustaining businesses to close to slow the spread of the disease, that put Sparrow’s plans on hold as well.
While Sparrow health care providers at SMG Portland have remained on the job caring for their patients amid the pandemic, they have been doing so in leased space that is far too small for their needs. As reported by the Beacon last fall, plans for the new facility on Hyland Drive will be over 11,500 square feet--about 5 times the size of the current clinic on the corner of Grand River Ave and Cutler Rd. Plans include expanded primary care offerings by doubling staffing from 3 providers (two physicians and a nurse practitioner) to 6 providers. The new facility will also boast expanded lab draw and x-ray capabilities as well as “walk-in clinic” type services. Sparrow also plans to partner with The Right Door (formerly Ionia County Community Mental Health) to expand access to walk-in mental health care.
Despite the ongoing public health challenges posed by COVID-19, Sparrow recently announced plans to move ahead with the planned construction now that restrictions on the building industry have been relaxed. According to Sparrow spokesperson, John Foren, “Wieland, a Lansing-based construction firm, has been named general contractor for the project,” and subcontractors are currently being bid. They plan to break ground as soon as all subcontractor bids are finalized.
Many Michigan health systems have felt the financial crunch of lost revenue from elective surgical procedures during the present crisis. This is due to state restrictions to conserve health care resources like personal protective equipment (PPE) for treating COVID-19 patients. Despite these financial challenges, Foren says that Sparrow has been, “...able to continue with this development because it is a strategic project helping to address a lack of access to primary care physicians and blood draw services for patients in Portland and surrounding communities. Regardless of financial conditions, we never waver from our mission of improving the health of the people in our communities. Like every health system across the country, we are experiencing financial challenges due to the pandemic. But our top priority is to continue to protect the health and safety of our patients and caregivers, as we’ve done for 124 years.”
Prior to the pandemic, Sparrow intended to begin construction in early 2020, with an opening in the summer. Those plans were pushed back, however Foren declined to speculate on a possible project timeline due to the fact that the bid process for sub contractors is not yet complete.