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Univ. of Iowa Hospitals will try again at proposal for $230 million hospital in North Liberty

Published: Feb. 18, 2021 at 6:44 PM CST
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NORTH LIBERTY, Iowa (KCRG) - The University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics said they will try again for a location in North Liberty. This comes after a proposal to build a $230 million hospital there was denied in a 3-2 vote by the State Health Facilities Council Wednesday night. The University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics’ Certificate of Need will need to be approved for them to move forward with their plans.

Leaders at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics said they’re constrained at their current location near Kinnick Stadium.

“We continue to be out of beds and I think folks have a hard time understanding how is that possible and the real possibility is we see different kinds of patients,” said Univ. of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics Suresh Gunasekaran.

Gunasekaran said the advanced care offered as a state hospital is unmatched and needs a second location for space reasons. The hospital proposed a location at the corner of Forever Green Road and Highway 965 in North Liberty.

Other area hospitals were concerned with the proposal duplicating their services, like UnityPoint Health St. Luke’s and Mercy Medical Center in Cedar Rapids as well as Mercy in Iowa City.

“The capacity that exists in the corridor now between both us here in Iowa City and Cedar Rapids I think is more than ample,” President of Mercy Iowa City Sean Williams said last week.

The State Health Facilities Council ultimately sided with them.

“Those three hospitals that opposed us consider themselves competitors and so at least they came together to oppose us,” Gunasekaran says.

UnityPoint Health St. Luke’s said in a statement Thursday, “UnityPoint Health – Cedar Rapids is pleased with the State’s Health Facilities Council decision not to approve the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics proposal to build a $230 million hospital in North Liberty. We appreciate that the Council upheld the intent of the CON law, which prevents duplication of expensive services, keeps health care costs down, and maintains quality of care for Iowans. We respect the UIHC’s mission as an academic medical center, and we anticipate they will re-evaluate both collaboration opportunities and approaches to best serve those patients they uniquely serve, in a manner that also keeps community hospitals strong.”

Mercy Medical Center in Cedar Rapids also sent us a statement from CEO Tim Charles saying, “We thank the State Health Facilities Council for their thoughtful consideration of the Certificate of Need application filed by UIHC. We are pleased that the Council confirmed our stance, and the position of other community hospitals in the area, that the $230 million project was unnecessary; would be harmful to the region’s already-established healthcare system; and would be a wasteful use of limited resources, especially in the wake of the pandemic.”

But UIHC said that’s not what this project is about.

“There are no duplication of services I think that was something that perhaps we could have been more clear on in our application but the facts are that UI Healthcare has so much demand for the services that only we can only provide,” Gunasekaran says.

North Liberty Mayor Terry Donahue was in favor of a hospital, not only for the economic impact, but for a closer emergency room for his city of 20,000 plus.

“We had 855 emergency medical service calls this past year for a community of our size that’s quite a bit, but that’s the way it’s been going,” Mayor Donahue said.

UIHC says opposition of their proposal will not draw a wedge between them and the other hospitals with who they work with on a daily basis accepting transfers for patients who need their care.

“Regardless of their criticism of us, regardless of the things that were said yesterday, it will not effect the care of a single Iowan,” Gunasekaran said. He added he respects Iowa’s Certificate of Need process and that the University of Iowa Hospitals will go before the council again, in hopes their proposal can eventually move forward.

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