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Iowa Health faces appeal deadline


Iowa Health-Des Moines officials won’t have long to ponder whether they will appeal last week’s denial of their application for a new hospital in West Des Moines.

Under state law, Iowa Health will have 30 days from the time the Iowa Department of Public Health releases its formal report to make a decision.

“That (report is) generally out fairly quickly,” said Kevin Teale, a department spokesman. “We would probably know within the next 60 days what Iowa Health is going to do.”

Iowa Health’s appeal options include requesting a rehearing of the proposal before the Iowa Health Facilities Council, requesting a hearing on a revised proposal, or appealing the council’s decision to the state district court, Teale said.

The five-member council on Feb. 4 unanimously rejected Iowa Health’s proposal to build a 83-bed hospital in West Des Moines, which Iowa Health officials say is needed to relieve a shortage of available patient beds at its affiliate, Iowa Methodist Medical Center in downtown Des Moines.

Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield has opposed the new hospital, saying it is not needed at this time and that building it would drive up health-care costs for its members.

Iowa Health officials say building a new facility would be more cost-effective than renovating Iowa Methodist, and that the denial means losing $28 million in pledged contributions from the Michael R. Myers family and the Iowa Health Foundation.

Iowa Health hasn’t decided its next step, said Sid Ramsey, Iowa Health’s vice president of development and marketing.

“The Michael R. Myers Hospital was our best solution based on all our analysis,” he said. “It was our best choice.”

The issue became more complex when Mercy Medical Center said it would likely build a new hospital across the street to compete with an Iowa Health West Des Moines facility.  Wellmark doesn’t view the council’s decision as a victory, said Cliff Gold, a group vice president for Wellmark.

“We really view it as a process that has worked,” he said. “Truthfully we believe there wasn’t a need for additional beds, even with one more hospital. The case got even more compelling with two hospitals involved.”

The next step should be a regional study to determine the best location for a new hospital when it’s needed in the future, Gold said.

Des Moines Mayor Frank Cownie said that’s the right aproach.

“It’s time for all of us to sit down together as stakeholders and convene a study,” he said, “to consider what are the long-term needs, and how are we going to provide for those needs, in a way that satisfies the needs of the many.”

The decision deeply disappointed many West Des Moines residents, among them Jim Sandager, a financial consultant who was recently elected to the West Des Moines City Council.

“We’re disappointed by the results, and we were disappointed it was a unanimous decision,” Sandager said. “They [the Iowa Health Facilities Council] didn’t think it was time for a hospital yet. I was glad they said that, and that they didn’t say there wouldn’t ever be a need.”

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