U of Iowa's plan for $230M hospital garners opposition

The University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics' plan to build a $230 million hospital is gaining opposition as an Iowa health facilities council prepares to vote on the project this week, The Gazette reported Aug. 30. 

This is the Iowa City health system's second try to obtain a state certificate of need to build the facility. A state council narrowly rejected the health system's initial certificate-of-need application Feb. 17 after hours of arguments. In its decision, the State Health Facilities Council said the health system failed to collaborate with other local providers on its plan, failed to address that excess capacity exists at its current facilities and failed to acknowledge that there could be a duplication of services. 

University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics resubmitted its application to build the hospital in North Liberty, Iowa, in late May. The revised application increased the North Liberty facility's square footage from 216,180 to 280,330 square feet and the number of inpatient beds it plans to relocate from its main campus from 36 to 48. The new application also specifies that the beds are not new licensed beds, just shifted beds. 

Since submitting the new application, the Iowa board has received more than 80 letters of opposition and nearly 70 letters of support for the new project. For the first application, the council received 53 letters of opposition and 27 of support. 

A majority of the new application's opposition letters are from providers or affiliates of Mercy Iowa City, MercyOne in West Des Moines, Iowa, and UnityPoint Health in Des Moines, Iowa.

"If approved, this would be the most expensive hospital in the state’s history," according to a media advisory MercyOne shared with The Gazette. "UIHC is again asking for approval to build an expensive, taxpayer-funded hospital which would duplicate services in the region and unnecessarily compete with community hospitals."

The media advisory also takes issue with the 80 letters of opposition, arguing that the high number shows "significant problems associated with the project."

Officials with University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics said in its revised application that the new facility is needed to ensure patients have access to tertiary care, according to The Gazette.

"It was not ever UIHC's intent to propose to construct, operate or duplicate community hospital services already offered by existing community hospitals," officials said. "UIHC appreciates the opportunity to clarify that what UIHC is requesting is a modernization of its existing statewide tertiary institutional health facility, not to create or add additional community hospital bed capacity."

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