UIHC expansion still alive


UI Hospitals and Clinics officials want to make something clear — there is no delay in the hospital’s expansion.

They’re still in the planning process, they said.

“We are continuing to plan,” said Gordon Williams, chief of operations for UI Health Care. “But like any planning, you have to marry the plans with your financial ability to pay for it.”

The state Board of Regents has approved UIHC’s plans to design a new critical-care tower, children’s hospital, off-site ambulatory care facility, and upgrade the operating rooms. The entire project is expected to be completed by 2014 and will likely cost between $750 million to $800 million.

Decreasing hospital revenues have forced UIHC officials to separate the project into two phases: The children’s hospital and off-site facility would be part of the first phase, and the critical-care tower would come next.

Now, certain parts of the projects aren’t financially feasible, officials said. The critical-care tower is one piece that seems unlikely to happen in the next few years.

“We had said originally we would build an acute-bed tower, move private rooms into it, then start converting all the other rooms,” Williams said. “We’re pretty convinced that’s too expensive right now.”

But officials said they are re-strategizing to achieve their objectives.

One of the hospital’s main goals is to make all patient rooms private. The critical-care tower would have created private accommodations for adult patients, but UIHC officials said they have other plans to make this goal a reality.

If UIHC officials proceed with the children’s hospital, Williams said they will take the former children’s beds and convert them to private adult rooms. Also, two more floors could be built on top of the Pappajohn Pavilion, he said.

The planning is complex, but Regent Robert Downer said refining the steps because of the economy isn’t unusual.

“Things are in a state of flux,” he said. “But there’s been no change in course on this.”

Downer expects UIHC officials to update the regents during summer meetings, he said.

At the beginning of the fall, officials said they will decide if they can finance and build the children’s hospital.

Until then, Williams said he and other UIHC leaders will set priorities for the research hospital.

“In challenging economic times, you make choices,” he said. “We are in a time of choice.”

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