Metro Health: Mike Faas, Chief Executive Officer

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The new hospital in western Michigan has a green roof, as well as yellow, burgundy and purple, depending on the season. Metro Health’s superior insulating, water absorbing roof provides a pleasant view for most of the hospital’s 208 patient beds. This, along with the great amount of natural light let into each room, is one of the many things that makes Metro Health a superior healing space for the patient, as well as friendly to the environment.

Though the hospital has more than 50 years of history, two years ago it relocated from within the city of Grand Rapids to the suburbs. “We purchased 170 acres and we crafted the Metro Health Village,” says Mike Faas, Chief Executive Officer. One third of the campus is dedicated to retail development, one third to other healthcare providers, and one third to the hospital itself.

“With our new location, we’ve doubled the size of our hospital and all 40 buildings on the site will ultimately be LEED certified by the U.S. Green Building Council. As far as I know, we are the only hospital and major campus in the United States where every building will be environmentally sound and geared toward getting LEED certification.”

The hospital’s network includes 14 ambulatory centers built for providing hospital services to surrounding towns close to home. The ambulatory centers are all fully connected with the EPIC information technology system, and the hospital is online as of the end of 2009.

Built for Healing

“Green building is a little more expensive, but guess what,” says Faas, “We’re seeing a tremendous amount of payback in terms of bills already. If we were sprinkling [with city water] right now and not using water from our holding ponds, our bills would be a lot higher. With our grass roof, we can see already see that our bills are lower because of the insulation and the earth on top of this building. It’s kind of like a sod home in the old days, or an earth home in the newer tech days.”

Externally, the hospital has the green roof and the ponds for storm water cleansing and management, but internally, green initiatives abound, as well. The hospital has changed to a micro fiber mop system and green certified cleaning products which cut water use by 43,000 gallons a year and reduces chemical use by 90%. Recycling and carpooling have both become a part of the hospital’s culture. Motion sensitive lights and water conserving fixtures all help to assure that energy is conserved.

Many changes are proving superior for healing the patient, as well. “We decided we were going to build one of the safest hospitals in the United States and we were going to build it as one of the most healing. It’s basically built to heal. We brought all the natural light into the design, all the natural product that we could,” says Faas.

All this leads to happier employees, as well.

An Open Management Style

“I do believe in getting out and managing basically by walking around. I like talking to individuals and getting first hand knowledge of what’s happening in the organization. I really expect that of everyone on the senior management team,” says Faas.

Faas believes in communicating, literally, with every one of the nearly 2,200 employees in the organization. “Today, I’ll have 60 managers and we’ll just sit and chat. I’ll say, ‘Here’s what I think is on our plate today,’ ‘Here’s what we just accomplished,” and I’ll have a list I go through like that. I do this every month,” says Faas.

He holds employee-wide forums four times a year, as well as multiple medical staff meetings where all doctors are invited. “It’s very interactive. As an employee, you have access to management. If we don’t have an answer, we’ll find it for you. I would say it’s an approachable management style.”

Metro Health has a reputation of having loyal and long-standing employees. Faas says it is not unusual at awards ceremonies to honor people who have been with the hospital for 30, 35, or even 40 years.

“It all goes back to people,” he says. “You’re not really a leader—it doesn’t matter your title, your salary, or your stature—you’re not really a leader until people want to follow you. You can’t tell your employees they are going to be happy now and treat the patients well. You can try that, but it won’t work. You have to treat them the way you like being treated, and that environment has to be bred inside the institution.”

-by T.M. Simmons

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