By Barb Arland-Fye
The Catholic Messenger
Two healthcare organizations in the Iowa City-Cedar Rapids corridor, one Catholic and the other secular, announced plans Dec. 12 for partnership.
Mercy Iowa City and UnityPoint Health-Cedar Rapids have signed a letter of intent that would allow them to provide health care services to the area through a new relationship spurred by trends in healthcare.
An important component of that partnership will be Mercy Iowa City’s ability to retain its Catholic identity, which will be made possible through the Diocese of Davenport. The Sisters of Mercy West Midwest are stepping away from sponsoring the hospital, but support the partnership efforts.
“The church has always been involved in caring for the sick. It is important to have a Catholic presence and a hospital that follows ethical principles in line with our faith,” noted Bishop Martin Amos.
Bringing the two healthcare organizations together “will improve our value-based care and care coordination capabilities,” said Mike Heinrich, Mercy Iowa City’s interim president and CEO and executive vice president and CFO. “UnityPoint Health– Cedar Rapids understands how important it is for Mercy to retain its identity as a Catholic hospital and we are excited to have the support of the Sisters of Mercy and the Davenport Diocese. UnityPoint Health is an outstanding organization and this new relationship will improve our ability to serve the residents of southeast Iowa.”
“We are excited to have the opportunity to bring Mercy Iowa City into the UnityPoint Health family and have a great deal of respect for the long tradition of care they have in the community,” said Ted Townsend, President and CEO of UnityPoint Health–Cedar Rapids. “As the healthcare industry continues to evolve and change, it is increasingly important for organizations and systems to collaborate and partner in order to continue to provide quality, affordable health care.”
The Sisters of Mercy founded Mercy Iowa City in 1873, and the Sisters of Mercy Chicago sponsored the hospital for many years until they joined the Sisters of Mercy West Midwest in 2008. “About two years ago, the sisters made the decision that we needed to affiliate for economies of scale. There have been a lot of changes in healthcare that make it difficult to be an independent hospital,” Heinrich said. Another challenge is a much larger healthcare provider in the same city: University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics.
“We looked at organizations that we thought could potentially be partners and came to the conclusion that UnityPoint was probably the best fit from an affiliation standpoint. But it was important to the sisters and to me that we remain a Catholic hospital…. It’s been a Catholic institution for 143 years. It’s important to the people who work at Mercy, our patients, the Sisters of Mercy and the board that their legacy would be carried on.”
“The Sisters of Mercy West Midwest Community support the proposed relationship between Mercy Iowa City and Unity Point Health-Cedar Rapids and are grateful that the hospital will be able to retain its Catholic identity through the Davenport Diocese,” said the community’s president, Sister Laura Reicks, RSM. “Although understandably we are disappointed that the hospital will no longer be sponsored by the Sisters of Mercy, this affiliation will ensure that Catholic health care will be available to the Iowa City area for many years to come.”
Formal discussions about the partnership are just getting under way, so specific details about the potential impact on either healthcare organization are not available, Heinrich said. The talks won’t have an immediate impact on staff and patients of Mercy Iowa City, which will maintain local leadership and governance. Heinrichs, who is wearing many hats during this exploration phase, said Mercy Iowa City is waiting to make a decision about a new president and CEO until partnership details have been worked out.
As part of the exploration process, representatives of both healthcare organizations and the Diocese of Davenport will learn more about the other organization and work closely to explore options. The diocese’s role in ensuring Mercy Iowa City’s Catholicity would be spelled out in an agreement between UnityPoint and the diocese, Heinrich said. “We’ll maintain our ethics committee, comply with the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services (ERDs), and include a list of things that already define us as a Catholic hospital.” The diocese would have no financial obligation under the proposed partnership, Heinrich said.
Asked why the two healthcare organizations are announcing the proposed partnership now, Heinrich said, “We just decided there were a lot of people we needed to inform that we are doing this. We wanted to make sure we were being transparent and upfront. … I think this is an exciting thing for Mercy Iowa City. UnityPoint is a tremendous organization. I think it will open a lot of opportunities for Mercy.”
Stats about Mercy Iowa City and UnityPoint Health-Cedar Rapids
Mercy Iowa City
The acute care hospital and regional referral center draws patients from throughout southeast Iowa. Mercy has 234 acute care beds, 25 private rooms for outpatient surgery, 26-bed nursery with Level II Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, 27 primary and specialty care clinics.
Physicians: 250 physicians and providers, of whom approximately half are employed and half are Employees: 1,440.
Founded by Sisters of Mercy in 1873 and sponsored by the Sisters of Mercy Chicago for many years, until they joined the Sisters of the West-Midwest Community in 2008.
UnityPoint Health-Cedar Rapids
Senior member of one of the nation’s most integrated health systems, UnityPoint Health. UnityPoint Health–Cedar Rapids consists of St. Luke’s Hospital, which has been nationally recognized six times as a Top 100 Hospital, has formed partnerships with more than 194 healthcare providers, 33 physician clinics and 3,000 associates.
UnityPoint Health –Cedar Rapids includes Jones Regional Medical Center in Anamosa, skilled nursing ad long-term care facilities in Cedar Rapids and other ventures with other partners.