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MAY 31 University of Iowa Health Care officials are again requesting permission to build a new $230 million facility in North Liberty, three months after being denied a state certificate of need amid criticism it would create unfair competition with other Corridor community hospitals and duplicate existing services. The newly submitted application recasts the facility as a “modernization” of its current operation, stressing the need to provide “tertiary” care, which it defined as “highly specialized care usually over an extended period that involves advanced and complex procedures and treatment performed by specialists in state-of-the-art facilities.” The new proposal increases the square footage of the medical center from 216,180 to 280,330 square feet and ups the bed count from 36 to 48, although the 12 additional beds would be used only if demand increases over time. UIHC was turned down for a certificate of need in February. The State Health Facilities Council voted 3-2 to deny a certificate for a proposed four-story complex at the intersection of Forevergreen Road and Highway 965, pointing to cost, lack of collaboration and impact to other community hospitals. “The need hasn’t changed,” UIHC CEO Suresh Gunasekaran told the CBJ in an editorial board discussion of the project that drew 27 letters of support and 53 letters of opposition last time around, including several from competing hospitals. Mercy Iowa City was among the most vocal, calling a news conference to pan the project as an unnecessary duplication of services, a waste of state resources and a competitive grab that threatened the survival of community hospitals. In a statement released May 26, Mercy called the resubmission “highly offensive” to the State Health Facilities Council, Mercy Iowa City, “all health care providers in the region and Iowa taxpayers,” noting the request for a more expansive facility comes less than 30 days after the State Health Facilities Council’s decision was published. “The resubmitted proposal for the North Liberty location is not substantially different yet will put more than $230 million on the backs of Iowa taxpayers,” Mercy said in the statement. “The concerns of the State Health Facilities Council remain unanswered including the duplication of services in the region at significant cost to Iowans through aggressive competition with community hospitals who have served the region’s patients for decades.” Mercy called on the council to deny the application once again, pointing out the region is already well-served “with excellent access to quality care by 10 surrounding hospitals, including Mercy Iowa City.” In its own statement, UIHC took pains to note no state funds would be used in its project and cited the state’s aging population and the toll sicker patients and a shortage of physicians were taking on a stressed system. The new application addresses some previous criticism by including plans to address space shortages at UI Hospitals & Clinics’ existing campus and increasing collaboration with other hospitals. The statement emphasizes that UIHC treats more patients from outside the Corridor than within — and that those numbers are growing. “Patients come to us from all 99 counties, and they deserve better access to highly specialized care right here in our state,” Mr. Gunasekaran said. “We are ready to provide it — as soon as we have the state’s permission. We are committed to advocating for resources to serve Iowans, and this proposed project is the most cost-effective solution to address the unmet need for tertiary care in the state.” While underlining its role as a leading transfer center and a provider of specialty expertise to more than 70 health care providers across the state, UIHCs new application describes a commitment to collaborating and pursuing partnerships with other hospitals in the state. “We are enthusiastic about opportunities to continue to partner with them to better serve the needs of Iowans, and we are committed to growing in a way that allows other Iowa hospitals and health care providers to continue to thrive, by focusing on what we do best,” Mr. Gunasekaran said. NEWSMAKERS UPDATE Plans underway for new facility after application approved After rejecting an application in February from University of Iowa Health Care to build a $395 million campus at the corner of Forevergreen Road and Highway 965 in North Liberty, the State Health Facilities Council approved the certificate of need in late August. A groundbreaking held at the 60-acre site Oct. 14 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; Suresh Gunasekaran, CEO of the University of Iowa Hospitals & Clinics and associate vice president for University of Iowa Health Care; Dr. Brooks Jackson, UI vice president for medical affairs; and Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds. “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,” Mr. Gunasekaran said at the groundbreaking ceremony. “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,” Dr. Jackson added. “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.” Construction of the new facility is slated for completion in 2025. — Angela Holmes