NORTON SHORES, Mich. (WOOD) — Hackley Community Care says it will be able to absorb some, but not all, of Muskegon Family Care’s thousands of patients after it closes next month.
“Luckily, Hackley Community Care has been preparing for the last two months: Worst-case scenario, what if they were to close suddenly with no notice?” CEO Linda Juarez said.
She it has been a turbulent few days in metro Muskegon since news of the impending closure broke late last week, comparing it to “speed dating.”
“It has been chaotic, it has been confusing and it’s caught us all off guard,” Juarez said Wednesday morning. “It was like trying to build an airplane while flying, having no data, no information. But we were somewhat prepared and I’m thankful for that.”
Millions of dollars in debt and with Michigan State Police investigating possible embezzlement, Muskegon Family Care in Muskegon Heights is expected to close March 31. It provides medical, dental and mental health care to about 20,000 patients, nearly 80% of whom are from low-income households.
“We’ve been hearing things for many, many years, negative things about them and quite honestly… I’ve been here for 28 years and our philosophy is we stay focused on the patient and on the community,” Juarez said. “There’s all kinds of things going on and I hope the folks involved over there take care of that. We can only focus on and control what we can. And quite honestly, that is the patients.”
Patients are local leaders’ first concern, too.
“For me, that has been the No. 1 priority, is what happens to the patients,” state Rep. Terry Sabo, D-Muskegon, told News 8 at an event in Grand Rapids Wednesday. “A lot of the other stuff we can figure out as we go, but right now the No. 1 priority is patients. And I think there’s been a lot of developments that are happening behind the scenes by a lot of different stakeholders in the Muskegon area that are going to really help go a long ways in making sure that the transition here is going to be as smooth as possible, again, for the patients.”
Phase one of Hackley Community Care’s rushed plan, it says, was to hire on six of Muskegon Family Care’s medical providers: physician’s assistant Ryan Busch, PA Kathryn Hendricks, Dr. F. Remington Sprague, nurse practitioner Sara Strait, Dr. Marco Tatangelo and NP Margaret Wolter. They’ll start March 2.
“They’re transitioning their patients over to us. Our medical providers are going to hold their patients, work on their days off, with new staff coming in, to hold those patients so that they can transition until those providers get over here,” Juarez said.
Those providers’ patients can call Hackley Community Care’s new patient line at 231.733.6750 to schedule appointments.
The initial transition plan covers only about 7,000 people, all of whom are medical patients. Hackley Community Care says it has discussed bringing in a number of dental patients as well, but that talk has not yet turned to plans.
“We started with medical concerns to make sure people can still get their prescriptions. Not that dental isn’t immediately necessary — we will address dental concerns soon,” Juarez said.
“I wish it was simple. We can’t just pick up all of their patients and staff and move them here,” she continued. “We’re able to pull on some of their current staff but it will take a while to build this. I can’t flip a switch and just do it. We’re feverishly working on it, though.”
Hackley Community Care advised patients to keep an eye on its Facebook page for updates on services.
—News 8 political reporter Rick Albin contributed to this report.