Borgess-Lee board member discusses recent shake-ups

The construction underway on the entrance of Dowagiac’s Borgess-Lee Memorial Hospital isn’t the only big change occurring at the local medical facility.

The hospital has been under new governance following the dissolution of the Borgess-Lee Memorial Hospital Board of Directors last fall. As part of an effort by Ascension Health, Borgess-Lee’s parent company, to consolidate leadership of the various healthcare providers under its umbrella, the Dowagiac hospital is now led by a regional board of directors, which also oversees Kalamazoo’s Borgess Medical Center and Plainwell’s Borgess-Pipp Hospital.

In an effort to ensure that the hospital continues to have a link with the community that it has called home for nearly a century, Borgess-Lee has
created an informal committee to ensure the connection between leadership and the residents they serve remain strong — a group that is the first of its kind among area Ascension hospitals, said committee head Terry Harris.

The group’s name is the Community Benefits and Health Needs Assessment Committee of Borgess-Lee Memorial Hospital.

“We haven’t come up with a good acronym for that yet,” Harris said.

Harris talked about the governing changes at the Dowagiac hospital during his presentation during the Dowagiac Rotary Club, during the group’s meeting Thursday at the Elks Lodge. Harris, a former member and president of the local service organization, was invited to talk to the club by member Marilu Franks.

Members of the newly formed committee include hospital leadership, such as Borgess-Lee COO John Ryder and local community members. Also serving on the board is Dowagiac’s Charles Burling, who is also a member of the regional board that oversees the local hospital.

“The group is designed to provide an avenue for community members to have a voice, to provide feedback and input to hospital leadership concerning the type and quality of services that are provided locally and also to be kept up to date on new and existing services provided by the hospital and clinics,” Harris said.

In spite of these changes to the hospital board, the facility operations have remained the same during the transition, Harris said.

Founded in 1918 as Lee Memorial Hospital, the Dowagiac medical provider has underwent several ownership changes before being acquired by Borgess Health, becoming Borgess-Lee Memorial in 2000.

In recent years, the hospital board sought and acquired the designation of Critical Access Hospital for Borgess-Lee, a status given to 24/7 emergency care providers that contain 25 or less in-patient beds, Harris said. The designation has provided several benefits to the facility, chiefly by allowing it to receive higher amounts of reimbursement from Medicare, Harris said.

“Being a Critical Access Hospital doesn’t mean that the hospital is any different in the way it provides care than any other hospital,” he said. “It’s just that, because of the rural designation and the fact it’s in a rural area means that it is providing a critical need for the community.”

Longtime Dowagiac Rotarian Fred Mathews backed up this statement about the importance that Borgess-Lee has to the people of Dowagiac, saying he had once spearheaded an effort to keep the hospital from turning into an outpatient clinic during the late 70s.

“To lose this hospital would move us to a whole new image as a community,” Mathews said.

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