As Suresh Gunasekaran, CEO of the University of Iowa Hospitals & Clinics and associate vice president for University of Iowa Health Care, watched the Hawkeyes pull off a thrilling college football win over Penn State on Oct. 9 at Kinnick Stadium, he said he was inspired to consider the remarks he made at a groundbreaking ceremony Oct. 14 for UI Health Care’s new North Liberty campus.
“When I think about this project, I think back to this past Saturday, when the nation was looking at us,” Mr. Gunasekaran said at the ceremony. “The day started with us in the national spotlight, and it ended with thousands of Iowans on the field together celebrating. This project is very much the same when it comes to University of Iowa Health Care. This campus will allow us to remain in the national spotlight, continuing to advance the kind of medical breakthroughs that everyone has come to expect for us, to provide the world-class training that you would expect, and ultimately will continue to extend our mission of making sure that we deliver world-class care to Iowans, by Iowans in Iowa, and having the capacity to do that is critical.”
The certificate of need for the $395 million North Liberty campus, on a 60-acre site at the corner of Forevergreen Road and Highway 965, was approved by the State Health Facilities Council in late August. The council had rejected an earlier application from UI Health Care in February, citing the project’s potential financial impact on other area health care facilities.
The groundbreaking ceremony was attended by a host of local and state dignitaries, including Iowa City Mayor Bruce Teague, North Liberty Mayor Terry Donahue and Coralville Mayor John Lundell; members of the Iowa Board of Regents, including President Mike Richards and President Pro-Tem Sherry Bates; University of Iowa President Barbara Wilson; Dr. Brooks Jackson, UI vice president for medical affairs; and Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds.
The four-story facility will encompass an estimated 460,000 square feet and will include up to 48 inpatient beds, 21 emergency care rooms, 96 exam rooms, 16 operating rooms and two more procedure rooms, laboratories, a drive-thru pharmacy, advanced diagnostic imaging, outpatient clinics including physical therapy and rehabilitation services, central sterilization and other building support services, a full-service cafeteria and other public amenities.
It will also include teaching and research facilities, a key component in UI Health Care’s educational mission, Dr. Jackson said.
“This campus will allow us to increase our capacity to do research and prepare the next generation of physicians, scientists and other health care professionals,” he said. “We look forward to having greater opportunities to improve resident and fellow physician training that is unique from what we are currently able to offer on our main campus … Ultimately, this project will help us recruit and retain world-class physicians, nurses and other health care professionals, as well as a cadre of students and trainees. It’s no surprise that the very best people prefer to work in the very best facilities, and this medical campus will be exactly that.”
Mr. Gunasekaran also noted that the majority of current patients at the University of Iowa Hospitals & Clinics have been transferred from other facilities outside the area, and Ms. Wilson said the new campus would also increase UI Health Care’s capacity for those patients.
“We are among the highest in the U.S. in getting requests for transfers and patients,” she said. “We want to be able to serve the neediest, the most sick out there, to make sure we can bring them into our facility and take care of them and send them home healthy. And this facility will allow us to do that in greater numbers. It’ll increase our ability to engage in ambulatory surgeries and outpatient visits, and it will relieve the congestion that we are experiencing in the heart of Iowa City at our current hospital and main campus.”
Ms. Reynolds also stressed the economic impact of the new facility on the regional and state economy.
“By the time these services are operational, the campus will be providing significant economic development for Eastern Iowa in the form of new high-paying jobs, but it’s the entire state that will benefit from the University of Iowa’s expanded presence here,” she said. “For more than 100 years, the UIHC has been a beacon of hope for Iowans needing highly specialized health care services. I’m confident that this new campus will strengthen Iowa’s health care infrastructure and entice new providers to our great state. High-quality care, top-notch medical training, expanded research opportunities – UIHC has established itself as a leader in each of these critical areas, and I have no doubt that this hospital, when completed, will reinforce and strengthen that well-deserved reputation.”
Construction of the new facility is slated for completion in 2025.