State Health Facilities Council approves UIHC $230 million hospital proposal

The State Health Facilities Council voted in a remote meeting Tuesday to approve the University of Iowa Hospitals & Clinics (UIHC) proposal that would build a new, $230 million hospital in North Liberty.

Having rejected the proposal 3-2 in February, the facilities council approved the reapplication of a certificate of need 4-1 for a proposed four-story complex at the intersection of Forevergreen Road and Highway 965 in North Liberty.

“We are thankful for the patients, city leaders, referring hospitals, business owners, and other community members who provided nearly 70 letters of support and testimonials,” said Suresh Gunasekaran, CEO of UI Hospitals & Clinics, in a statement after the long day of testimonies. “Your support of our application helped illustrate our unique, state-wide impact and our significant need for more capacity. We look forward to continuing to care for all Iowans and partnering with community hospitals across the state.”

The proposal, very similar to its February counterpart with the major differences being the August plan has 12 more beds, a revamped emphasis on tertiary care, and more than 60,000 extra square feet, was ultimately deemed an acceptable and needed investment by UIHC.

Competing hospitals expressed concern a hospital expansion would cut too deeply into primary care services already offered in the area, and does not have as much emphasis on tertiary medical needs. These hospitals argued UIHC expansion would put their long-term survival at risk. They also stated the University’s marketing efforts are targeting individuals seeking primary care, not individuals seeking specialized care.

“This new hospital will compete for primary care because that’s what they do today in the current hospital,” said Eric Briesemeister, CEO of Jones Regional Medical Center. “And that is what they will do tomorrow.”

UIHC argued a new hospital was essential in offering the best care to Iowa residents. Although acknowledging other hospitals in the region offer excellent primary care as well, the tertiary care UIHC provides is unique and could be expanded with a new hospital, UIHC officials said.

Referring patients from local hospitals to UIHC can often be needlessly complicated and problematic, often due to scheduling limitations, says Dr. Bob Shreck, who added local hospitals are not equipped for some tertiary needs, which leads to limited space and resources in UIHC facilities when so many patients are transferred.

In addition, UIHC advocates stated that the University is a great avenue for training and funneling medical employees to local hospitals around the state.

Despite having gone over budget when constructing the UI Stead Family Children’s Hospital, UIHC does not expect this to occur again. The children’s hospital was built on-campus, whereas the construction site in North Liberty should be much more straightforward, says Mr. Gunasekaran.

Unless otherwise appealed, the hospital is expected to be constructed and ready by 2025.