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Board Of Regents Approves UIHC Plan To Build New Hospital In North Liberty

A rendering of the $395 million dollar hospital facility that the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics plans to build on Forevergreen Road in North Liberty.
Courtesy of University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics
A rendering of the $395 million hospital facility that the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics plans to build on Forevergreen Road in North Liberty.

The Iowa Board of Regents unanimously approved a plan Tuesday for the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics to build a new hospital in North Liberty. A state council signed off on a certificate of need for the facility last week, over the objections of other area hospitals. UIHC officials say the facility on Forevergreen Road will not be plagued by the same cost overruns as previous construction projects.

The planned expansion comes at a time when the UIHC is rapidly outgrowing its main campus in downtown Iowa City, while striving to care for increasingly sick patients from across the state.

The 469,000 square foot facility at the corner of Forevergreen Road and Coral Ridge Avenue in North Liberty will provide emergency care, inpatient and outpatient services, surgical suites and physical therapy, as well as faculty office, research and educational space.

Spread across a 60 acre site, the $395 million facility will allow the UIHC to care for more patients while expanding its research and educational operations to support students and trainees.

According to Board of Regents documents, the expansion is needed to keep up with an “unprecedented demand” for high level care from patients across Iowa, many of whom are transferred to the UIHC from smaller regional hospitals that struggle to provide care for more acute conditions.

“There are many factors contributing to this, including an aging population, an increased incidence of obesity and chronic disease, closure of services across many hospitals in the state, and the emerging shortage of community providers, due at least in part to their retirement,” a board document reads.

Addressing the board Tuesday, University of Iowa President Barbara Wilson said patients across the state will benefit from the facility.

“This is really for the state of Iowa,” Wilson said. “We are turning away too many transfer patients right now. We’ve got much, much work to be done to help ensure the health and safety of our…of our populace across the state and this will allow us to do that, to extend our very high-level care for very sick patients.”

Iowa Board of Regents Meeting - September 7

The vote by the regents followed a move last week by the State Health Facilities Council to approve a certificate of need for the hospital, over the opposition of officials from Mercy Iowa City, Unity Point Cedar Rapids and the Jones Regional Medical Center, who argued the expansion of the UIHC will undermine their ability to maintain their own services.

The council initially denied the hospital’s request in February but approved a retooled proposal on Aug. 31.

During a short meeting Tuesday, regents questioned university officials on how the UIHC would ensure the new facility would not struggle with the same construction mismanagement that plagued the Stead Family Children’s Hospital, which saw a series of delays and cost overruns.

UIHC CEO Suresh Gunasekaran assured the board that steps have been taken to keep the building process on schedule and on budget.

“I think there are multiple strategies that we’ve placed in terms of this project that mitigates some of the risks associated with Children’s,” Gunasekaran said. “One such feature is the construction manager at-risk [model], where one outside party is responsible for the total scope of the project and managing all of the component parts.”

At the meeting Tuesday, Regents President Michael Richards voiced his support for the project.

“We’re doing this for the people of the state of Iowa,” Richards said. “We take care of people from every walk of life in the state and this will be their hospital.”

Construction on the facility is slated to start as soon as next month and is scheduled to be completed in the spring or summer of 2025.

Kate Payne was an Iowa City-based Reporter