Q&A with Spectrum Health’s Rick Breon

Amidst our special 'Inside Munson' section this month and the recent news that

Spectrum Health might be combining with Munson Healthcare, we caught up with Rick Breon, president and chief executive officer of Spectrum.

BN: When and how did all this come about?

RB: I'm not sure who called who first, but a few years ago [Munson CEO] Doug Deck and I were just talking about the future of health care and West and Northern Michigan … what it might look like, issues that keep us all up at night. It wasn't a strategic call or anything like that. Just two people talking about the vision for the state of Michigan.

BN: What does Spectrum have that Munson doesn't?

RB: It's not really about that. The array of services that we offer in Grand Rapids is pretty much the same as what's offered there in Traverse City. We are bigger, so we have a better bond rating. It's really about how much better we could be together than we could be independently.

BN: What's the logical timeline for all of this?

RB: Well, we signed a letter of intent, and now both sides are conducting due diligence for 120 days, where they look at us and we look at them. And in that time there's lots of communication that has to take place, in particular in Traverse City with staff and the community. Then at a point in time, if there is agreement, you develop transactional papers, and then both organizations' boards approve it, and then you set a time to implement, which is usually a few months out. So this whole thing could be six months, probably every bit of that.

BN: What assurances can you give to northern Michigan businesses that do business with Munson that things won't be consolidated to Grand Rapids?

RB: Well, we hear that people assume that, or they assume we'll cut employees. The fact is, yes, there will be savings, but this is more of a growth strategy. It's about the potential to grow in the west and north sides of the state. You know, health care is a very local business. Patients are not going to have to get their care from Grand Rapids or vice versa. Business relationships exist and will continue, and new relationships will develop. There's a lot of opportunity.

BN: Any impressions about Traverse City?

RB: Personally I have a cottage on Lake Michigan, but I think what's important is we've had relationships with Munson for quite some time. We actually do a lot of our retreats up there, and there are people who are on their medical staff who used to work here, or vice versa. Traverse City is a beautiful city, but it's also a key commercial entity for the northern half of the state. We want to put together a health care system for those regions that lowers cost and improves quality, so businesses that are there now will stay, and those not there might want to relocate.