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UIHC officials move on children’s tower, without grant

BY NINA EARNEST | JANUARY 17, 2011 7:10 AM

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Officials plan to move forward with a new University of Iowa Children’s Hospital, despite not receiving a $100 million federal grant.

Regent Robert Downer said not receiving the grant — through the Infrastructure to Expand Access to Care Program — was “disappointing.” But officials weren’t relying on the grant for the estimated $280 million project, and original plans didn’t include the grant.

“It would have been a terrific benefit had we received it, but it’s not something I think poses as a major setback,” Downer said.

The grant, originally designed as an earmark for the University of Connecticut, became a grant open to programs across the country under the recent health-care reform bill. The state Board of Regents approved the UIHC’s participation in the grant program in September.

UI Vice President for Medical Affairs Jean Robillard said UI Hospitals and Clinics officials were “extremely competitive” in the process, though the grant ultimately went to Ohio State University’s hospital.

“There are seven institutions that applied for this money, and just one could get it,” Robillard said.

He said the UIHC would receive a critique on its grant application within the next week or two.

Construction on a new Children’s Hospital is scheduled to continue pending permission to proceed from the regents at their Feb. 2 meeting in Iowa City.

Robillard said he was “optimistic” the project would receive approval next month.

UIHC currently has a “hospital within a hospital,” with pediatric services scattered throughout the building, rather than a separate structure exclusively for children, said Children’s Hospital pediatrics head Tom Scholz.

Scholz, who worked on the grant application, said the goal with the new project is to bring all children’s health care services to one facility.

“We can design the walls, the floors and the toys to be items friendly for kids and families,” Scholz said.

Robillard said officials were also looking to create more private rooms for patients in the hospital. In addition to privacy, such rooms protect against infection.

The new tower is slated for construction at the current location of the UIHC’s Parking Lot 2. Construction is scheduled to begin by late summer of 2012 and should be completed in 2015.

Funding for the $270 million dollar construction project will come from gifts, patient revenue, and issued bonds, Robillard said.

Doug Kelley, from the Family Advisory Council, said the current UIHC complex can be “intimidating” for families. The council, composed of parents whose children have received Children’s Hospital care and hospital representatives, advocates making the experience better for young patients.

“We’re really happy with the children’s hospital the way it is now,” Kelley said. “By starting from scratch, they will be able to make it a lot more family-friendly.”


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