By Kathy Gibbons
TRAVERSE CITY —
Munson Medical Center has received its all-time biggest donation: $8 million for its Heart Center, a gift from the Wayne and Joan Webber Foundation.
"This is the largest donation in Munson Medical Center history," said Munson Healthcare President Ed Ness. "We received last year a $5 million gift from Casey Cowell (former CEO of U.S. Robotics) as a lead gift for the Cancer Center.
"That's the most recent large gift we received."
Ness said the Webber family approached Munson.
"They were really interested in insuring that the health care for the region was insured into the future, so we had discussions with them of what might be a good fit," Ness said. "We talked to them about Munson Healthcare's cardiac program and how that really served the entire region, not just Traverse City. It was something that was a fit with what their interests were."
Wayne Webber was co-founder of a Detroit-area concrete company that became known as W.W. Webber when he retired. Webber sold the company in 2005.
The couple created their foundation in 1999. Recent donations included $4 million in 2010 to William Beaumont Hospitals, and more recently, $500,000 to Paul Oliver Memorial Hospital in Frankfort.
The Webbers have a home in the Thompsonville area. Wayne was born north of there and the family actively supported other Benzie County charitable efforts.
Munson's 127-bed heart center will carry the family's name. The $67.5 million, 128,000-square-foot facility houses cardiovascular services on six floors in the hospital's A-tower.
The Webber donation will be spent over several years to develop additional specialty clinics and purchase specialized monitoring and communication equipment.
Dino Recchia, M.D., chair of Munson's cardiology department and Heart Center director, said the money in part will help fund expansion of a structural heart program that makes it possible to correct heart defects without open heart surgery.
"This gift from the Webbers will help us outfit the operating rooms and get the equipment we need to push this even further," Recchia said.
A heart failure clinic has been established and will be expanded. The hospital also plans to buy an advanced system to treat cardiac rhythm disorder.
"People who have abnormal heart rhythms, some of those rhythms can be cured with a technique called ablation that uses a catheter in the heart to find the source of the problem and treat it in an attempt to cure it," Recchia said. "It's a high-tech technique that requires specialized and expensive equipment."
The center already purchased a device that allows staff to evaluate the function of left ventricular assist devices, or implants that pump blood.
"Previous to that, people had to drive three and four hours in one direction to either Ann Arbor or Grand Rapids to have their device checked," he said.
In fact, many of the enhancements made possible by the Webber gift broaden local cardiac care and treatment options.
"The vision that we have and have had for the Heart Center is to provide cutting-edge heart care close to home so they don't have to travel so far to get the kind of services they need," Recchia said.