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Two new hospitals proposed in Coralville

Construction set to begin this spring on both rehabilitation hospitals

Mercy Iowa City and Kindred Healthcare have proposed a $7.5 million project located adjacent to the Mercy Coral West building. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)
Mercy Iowa City and Kindred Healthcare have proposed a $7.5 million project located adjacent to the Mercy Coral West building. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)

The state has approved construction for two new hospitals in Coralville.

This week, the State Health Facilities Council approved certificates of need for proposals that would establish two rehabilitation hospitals, each a 40-bed facility that would offer inpatient rehabilitation services following acute medical care.

The proposals were presented by Encompass Health as well as a joint proposal between Kindred Healthcare and Mercy Iowa City.

Mercy Iowa City and Kindred Healthcare, a Louisville, Ky.-based post acute care provider, proposed a $7.5 million project located adjacent to the Mercy Coral West building at 2769 Heartland Drive.

The project would break ground in July 2019 and open to patients by July 2020.

“We know there is a tremendous need for inpatient rehabilitation care in our service area,” said Mercy Iowa City President and CEO Sean Williams in a news release. “By working with Kindred, we can provide an extraordinary level of care for patients much closer to home which is beneficial for both the patients and their loved ones.”

The second proposal from Encompass Health, a post-acute health care provider that oversees facilities in 36 states and Puerto Rico, was for the construction of a $27 million facility that would be built near the intersection of Coral Court and Oakdale Boulevard.

“We are grateful to have received the (certificate of need) council’s approval of our project, and we intend to build the hospital as quickly as we can,” said Troy DeDecker, president of the central region of Encompass Health, in an emailed statement.

The project — set to begin sometime in the next six months — would be completed in “approximately 18 months” after the certificate of need was granted, according to the organization’s application to the state board. This will be the first Encompass Health hospital in Iowa.

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Encompass stated in its application to the state the initial construction will be for 40 private patient rooms. However, officials also said the eight-acre site was chosen to allow the project to expand up to 80 beds as the need arises — a need that they expect “to grow as the population ages.”

“With a new project like this, it is hard to predict exactly when expansion would be needed, but because we think the community’s need for the service is so strong and will continue to expand in the future as the overall population ages, we are grateful that we have the infrastructure in place to grow,” DeDecker said.

Iowa’s Certificate-of-Need law, in place since 1977, is a regulatory review process intended to prevent duplication of expensive health services in communities. Hospitals and other health care providers must go before the state board for approval for services or medical equipment costing more than $1.5 million.

“While they were both granted (certificate of needs), there is the possibility that there could be a request for rehearing or an appeal on either or both of the applications,” said Iowa Department of Public Health Spokeswoman Polly Carver-Kimm. “We won’t know until after the issuance of the decisions, which could take up to a month, if either of those will happen. In the meantime, the parties are able to move forward.”

Both rehabilitation hospitals would offer intensive services for patients with complex medical conditions or impairments, which oftentimes require a stay in an inpatient setting.

These conditions include stroke, brain and spinal cord injuries, major trauma, amputation or other major health incidents that require advanced rehabilitation.

Mercy and Kindred stated in their applications to the state they expect the majority of patients treated at the facility will be 65 years or older.

Throughout their applications, both Encompass and Mercy Iowa City and Kindred alluded to the benefit of these rehabilitation facilities for these patients in Johnson County and the surrounding area.

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According to the application from Encompass, studies show that patients discharged from an inpatient rehabilitation program have higher rates of functional recovery than those discharged from an inpatient hospital stay or a skilled nursing program.

Encompass’ DeDecker said its research of the state of Iowa, Encompass officials found that despite the health care services available in Iowa City, the region “did not have access to an actual inpatient rehabilitation hospital.”

“Patients were either having to go without the service or, at a minimum, driving long distances to other parts of the state or sometimes even to other states,” DeDecker said. “We saw that as a real gap in the continuum of care and a real need for people in Iowa City and the surrounding areas.”

Mercy Iowa City and Kindred’s application stated are “a number of disadvantages” to remaining in inpatient acute care longer than necessary.

“For example, the in-patient acute setting does not offer appropriate rehabilitation services or the healing environment that exists in rehabilitation facilities,” the application stated.

“Also, patients who do not receive appropriate rehabilitation services as soon as they can face higher-than-average readmission risks and do not achieve maximum functional improvement, which impairs their abilities in their daily lives upon discharge.”

Kindred Healthcare recently partnered with Mercy Medical Center in Des Moines to open a rehabilitation hospital in Clive in June of this year.

That 50-bed, 58,000-square-foot facility provides care for patients recovering from stroke, traumatic brain and spinal cord injuries, amputations and other conditions.

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“We look forward to partnering with Mercy Iowa City to build and operate this facility, our second hospital with Mercy in the state of Iowa, to address the growing need for in-patient rehabilitation services in the state,” said Jason Zachariah, president of Kindred Rehabilitation Services, a division of Kindred Healthcare.

“Kindred is proud to create a quality-focused partnership with another leading health care system and we are excited to broaden our post-acute care offerings.”

• Comments: (319) 368-8536; michaela.ramm@thegazette.com

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