Allegan General Hospital brings personalized care back to Fennville
Dr. Ken Kratzer opened his family practice in Fennville in the summer of 1972. Aside from approximately 18 months, he ran it until a few weeks before he died in March.
His wife Judy said when administrators for Allegan General Hospital inquired in April about reopening the practice, she thought it was wonderful.
“It’s honestly exactly what he wanted,” she said. “He really cared about his patients and this community and he never wanted to just walk away from his practice. He didn’t live to see Allegan General Hospital step up to the plate, but I think he would be very happy.”
The Fennville Medical Center, at 200 N. Maple St., opened Monday, July 24, bearing the Allegan hospital logo.
It was welcome news for the community, according to Fennville Mayor Tom Pantelleria.
“Dr. Kratzer was with us for decades, serving the community and he really gave personalized care,” Pantelleria said. “He was very connected to his patients and generally loved people. I think that’s why he continued doing his job until he was well into his 70s.”
Hospital CEO and president Gerald Barbini said the clinic was a perfect fit for the hospital’s goal to provide exceptional, compassionate care to the community.
“We’re always looking to identify community health needs, and this just makes sense,” Barbini said. “Fennville is part of what we consider our service area. We weren’t interested in duplicating services, but after Dr. Kratzer’s passing, it left a vacuum.
“And the way Judy Kratzer described the practice to us, it was always about personalized care—that patients are people and not just numbers. It seemed almost a no-brainer; that’s the atmosphere we promote at all of our practices.
“We’re honored to step into Dr. Kratzer’s legacy there.”
The hospital is currently interviewing for a doctor to serve fulltime at the clinic, according to Craig Solle, the hospital’s administrator for Allegan Professional Health Services.
“I don’t think it will be long before we find someone,” he said. “Having someone to connect to locally for primary care is really important for a community.”
For now, the clinic will be open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and be served part-time by Dr. Timothy Dickinson, Dr. Ken Forsman and nurse practitioner Cassie Vandervelden.
Until then, there will already be some familiar faces at the front desk—the hospital hired receptionist Lilly Hernandez and medical assistant Naomi Gonzalez. Both worked for Dr. Kratzer, Hernandez for nearly three years and Gonzalez for five years.
Though the clinic had been closed since April, they have been on-hand helping organize and file medical records.
So far, Solle said the clinic already had 18 patients scheduled for appointments.
Seeing the building full again is important, said Pantelleria.
“We (on the city council) were all elated that the medical building was again going to be filled,” he said, noting that the building also houses Lakeshore Smiles, a dental practice. “I’m looking forward to partnering with the hospital and are very hopeful they are successful in our community.”
He remembers first hand how important the practice was and how deeply Dr. Kratzer cared for his patients. Several years ago, Pantelleria’s wife was getting out of her appointment when “something happened to her car; she couldn’t go home.
“Dr. Kratzer lent his car to her while he was still with other patients so she could go home and get what she needed—that’s the kind of guy he was.”
Judy said Dr. Kratzer had always said he was looking for three things in his practice: he wanted to be in a small town—he’d grown up in rural Pennsylvania—he wanted his patients to be friends “and he wanted to learn to sail.”
“He fulfilled all his dreams with this practice; that’s why we stayed here,” she said. “He bought a sailboat and we were close enough to Lake Michigan.”
She recalled that while Dr. Kratzer was interning in Grand Rapids, a pharmaceutical representative connected him with Ross Alexander, a pharmacist in Fennville. That kicked off a partnership and sparked Dr. Kratzer’s plan to open a clinic in Fennville, starting out on Main Street.
“He never practiced anywhere else in his professional life,” Judy Kratzer said. She said Holland Hospital ran the clinic for about 13 years starting in the 1990s, though he still worked there; he also worked urgent care in Holland. She said they closed it at some point; after about one-and-a-half years, he reopened the clinic in 2005.
“He just couldn’t not be there,” she said. “
Allegan General Hospital hopes to bring that same dedication with its own staff.
Contact Ryan Lewis at email@example.com or (269) 673-5534.
This story appeared in our Aug. 3 issue of The Allegan County News, in our monthly Chamber and Business News insert. It's included with the first issue of each month; check it out for all the latest business news in the Allegan, Fennville, Otsego-Plainwell and Wayland areas.