Great Lakes Eye Care begins work on new surgery center

A construction worker breaks up some of the existing parking lot behind Great Lakes Eye Care along M-63 in St. Joseph Township. GLEC is prepping the area for a new surgery center that will be ready by summer 2016. (Tony Wittkowski | HP Staff)

A construction worker breaks up some of the existing parking lot behind Great Lakes Eye Care along M-63 in St. Joseph Township. GLEC is prepping the area for a new surgery center that will be ready by summer 2016. (Tony Wittkowski | HP Staff)

By Tony Wittkowski | Business Reporter | The Herald-Palladium

ST. JOSEPH — Great Lakes Eye Care is in the process of building its own surgery center.

Construction behind the 2848 S. Niles Road eye clinic in St. Joseph Township began two weeks ago.

Jim Duryee, clinical administrator and team lead on the project, said the project has been underway for about six months with plans and drawings, state approval and permitting.

Duryee said most eye surgeries will be done in the new surgery center once it is operational. However, some will still be done within the Lakeland System because of special equipment needs and special care.

“I would suspect at least 90 percent of our area’s eye surgery would be done in that facility,” Duryee said of the new surgery center.

The plan is to complete construction by the middle of summer 2016. However, it may take a couple of months after the center gets its certificate of occupancy before it can start taking patients for surgery because there’s a lot of red tape and approvals needed for a medical facility.

Site plans call for the main surgery floor to be 10,000 square feet with three operating rooms. There will be an 8,000-square-foot basement, which will house administrative offices for the clinic and the surgery center. Combining the clinic and the surgery center, Duryee said the site will cover about 35,000 square feet.

With additional parking and two entry ways, the surgery center will be connected to the original clinic, both through the basement and above ground.

The clinic hired a construction manager company out of Troy called Vision Quest. Duryee said the company builds surgery centers in the Detroit area.

In order to run the surgery center, Duryee said they will hire an additional 10 to 15 full- and part-time employees.

The next phase will be to remodel the clinic once the surgery center is running. Remodeling of the clinic could begin in late 2016.

“We’re just praying the weather cooperates because it is tough to build in the winter,” Duryee said. “We have a lot of faith in the construction manager who has done this so much. We were hoping to get started in September and be onto the roof by now. But we are not set back too much. This is something I know Dr. Cook has been trying to do for a long time.”

Getting started

David Cook, M.D. and founder of GLEC, said they’re expanding the clinic because he wants it to be the best practice in the Midwest. Five years ago, the eye clinic split into different departments that analyzed what the practice needed most.

Among the departments that were asked to provide suggestions, a new surgery center was one of the consistent answers. That began a three-year process, which included discussions and planning for the Great Lakes Surgery Center.

“About 40 years from now, we are hoping we will be the most desirable place for other doctors to come to,” Cook said. “I want this place to be the best place for care. I don’t want our patients to have to go to other clinics.”

Once Cook had it in his mind to build an adjoining surgery center, they presented the idea to Loren Hamel, CEO of Lakeland Health Systems. Although it would mean less revenue for Lakeland, Cook said Hamel and his people believed this was the right thing for the community.

“He and his team got 100 percent behind this and helped us get state approval,” Cook said. “We could not have gotten state approval without them because (Hamel) agreed.”

Contact Tony Wittkowski at twittkowski@TheHP.com or (269) 932-0358. Follow him on Twitter: @tonywittkowski.

(Author’s Note: This article was originally published on Dec. 23, 2015)

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