Traverse City Record-Eagle

April 10, 2013

Grand Rapids hospital begins expansion


— GRAND RAPIDS (AP) — A Grand Rapids hospital broke ground Tuesday on a $54 million expansion and renovation project that includes the creation of a cancer program named after former first lady Betty Ford.

The Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital announced plans to double space for patients. The project also includes renovating three buildings and adding about 300 jobs in nursing, therapy and other specialties.

The 122-year-old Mary Free Bed Guild is providing the lead gift of $16 million for the project. Among other investors is Trinity Health, which operates a joint venture with Mary Free Bed.

Hospital President and CEO Kent Riddle said the hospital is seeking $16 million from the community as part of its capital campaign.

Ford’s daughter, Susan Ford Bales, announced the establishment of The Betty Bloomer Ford Cancer Rehabilitation Program in honor of her mother and grandmother, Hortense Neahr Bloomer. Both women were active supporters of the hospital and Betty Ford brought such previously taboo subjects as breast cancer into the public arena by candidly discussing her battle with it.

Riddle said the facility is the first in the state to develop a cancer rehabilitation program. Mary Free Bed has been taking care of cancer patients but in small numbers and usually in association with injuries or surgeries, he said.

Mary Free Bed is a nonprofit hospital providing rehabilitation for children and adults.