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University of Iowa hospital eyes $16 million in upgrades, conversions
One $8 million project could add 13 more badly needed inpatient rooms
IOWA CITY — Adding to the hundreds of millions in new construction, renovations and expansions already planned or underway across its Johnson County campuses, the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics this week wants state Board of Regents approval to spend another $16 million upgrading its main Iowa City location.
One $8 million project going before the board Wednesday would, if approved, allow the main campus to convert the second level of its south wing into 13 inpatient rooms — addressing a key capacity concern at the UIHC, which regularly sits above 90 percent occupancy of its 658 adult inpatient beds.
Although a 10-year UI master facilities plan the board OK’d in January didn’t specifically mention the $8 million south wing conversion, this week’s UIHC request for board approval notes the master plan “included this project.”
“Board approval allowed the UI to quickly add inpatient capacity through this project, while the new bed tower is being planned on UIHC's main campus,” according to the request, citing plans to eventually erect a new 842,000-gross-square-foot inpatient tower in Iowa City.
The UIHC plans to use patient-generated revenue to pay for the south wing conversion, aimed at taking from spring 2023 to spring 2024 to construct.
The UIHC also this week is seeking board permission to spend $2.3 million building a new “ophthalmology simulation lab” on a lower level of its Parking Ramp 4. That project would renovate 1,600 square feet of storage space for an Ophthalmology Department wet lab, where “dissections and other simulated surgical procedures would be performed.”
The lab would include a teaching station, six lab stations, an adjacent counter for four, a multimedia recording room and storage space, according to board documents. Among other things, It would let students practice surgical techniques before working with patients. “To improve medical student, resident and fellow education and surgical techniques, the department would create this specialized lab, that allows for instructional and practice space related to eye care,” according to the request.
By tapping space in a parking ramp, the university wouldn’t have to temporarily relocate any occupants to build the new lab — scheduled for completion by October 2023, using patient-generated revenue and private gifts.
The UIHC’s final ask of projects to the board this week involves permission to pursue elevator modernizations, starting with one that upgrades three elevators for $5 to $5.6 million. “Elevators are critical infrastructure to UIHC’s overall operations,” according to the request. “They require periodic modernizations to maintain safety, patient experience and elevator maintainability.”
The elevators involved in this first proposed upgrade last were modernized 21 years ago and involve machinery more than 40 years old.
The projects come as the UIHC continues to face capacity issues, which it hopes to address in part with a new $525.6 million hospital campus in North Liberty. The UIHC last year sought state approved to build the $230 million hospital portion of that project, later revealing a second clinics building would drive up the price to $395 million.
Recently, the university went back to the board and the state to seek permission to spend 33 percent more — due to inflation and supply chain issues — propelling the project’s cost to over half a billion dollars.
As the university prepares plans and a budget for its new inpatient tower, it’s moving forward with a $95 million vertical expansion of its existing inpatient tower, adding two more floors and a $25 million emergency room expansion and upgrade.
A projection UIHC officials offered regents earlier this year showed its current total 848 inpatient beds will fall 424 short of its anticipated need of 1,272 beds by 2031. Right now, the university is more than 80 beds shy of what it needs to meet the UIHC demand.
“The large increase in the number of patients that need to be seen at UIHC is driven by the aging of the population (creating more complex care needs) and retirement of community providers,” according to a 10-year-master plan.
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