One of the biggest economic advantages of the Corridor is our amazing health care industry. It is the envy of many regions across the state and country and will only become more important as health calamities continue to occur and our population ages.
It is a multi-billion-dollar economic engine supporting nearly 20,000 direct, well-paying jobs and thousands of others indirectly as part of their support and supply chains.
Residents and visitors can get some of the best medical care in the world right here, with 11 hospitals and countless clinics in the Corridor.
But underlying this important industry is a competitiveness that can be cutthroat.
One benefit of this competitiveness is that our health care providers keep getting better and offering new and improved services.
But every few years there is angst from existing health care providers over a proposed new facility or expansion into markets served by other providers.
Physicians’ Clinic of Iowa’s new facility in downtown Cedar Rapids, Mercy Medical Center Cedar Rapids’ expansion into North Liberty, the Hall-Perrine Cancer Center in Cedar Rapids and now the UIHC’s possible expansion into North Liberty with a new $230 million hospital are just a few examples of controversial expansions.
Will the Corridor at some point get to a place where the health industry’s expansions become more of a problem than a benefit?
To officials at Mercy Iowa City, it seems that time is now.
“The region is saturated with duplicative services, and this [new UIHC] public hospital will unnecessarily compete with community hospitals,” said Mercy Iowa City Board Chairman Tom McLaughlin in a press release.
Mercy Iowa City opposed the Certificate of Need for the proposal, as did Mercy Cedar Rapids and UnityPoint Health – St. Luke’s. They all expressed concern to the State Health Facilities Council at a hearing last week. The Council voted 3-2 against the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics development.
UIHC officials are undeterred, and say they plan to use the council’s feedback and resubmit their application.
We do have special sensitivity when public institutions compete with private enterprise, another complaint from Mercy Iowa City leaders. It’s a serious topic that our governance structure hasn’t sufficiently clarified. Now is the time for the Iowa Board of Regents to do so.
The State Health Facilities Council objectively viewed the facts and made a well-reasoned decision. When UIHC resubmits their application, the council will need to decide once again. Regardless of the outcome, we hope to see business and community leaders come together to preserve this critically important industry and its logical growth without compromising services or financially ruining existing institutions. CBJ