IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) — A state council has denied an application from the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics to build a $230 million hospital complex in North Liberty — an expansion the health system says it desperately needs.

The Health Facilities Council on Wednesday rejected the request in a 3-2 vote, following strong opposition from other community health care providers like Mercy Iowa City. UIHC had sought permission for the new 300,000-square-foot, four-story, 36-bed hospital because, it argued, it is in desperate for more beds, operating room space and emergency department capacity.

But Andrew Ashby, a pulmonologist and medical director for Mercy Iowa City’s Intensive Care Unit, argued before the council that the vote was about preserving community-based medicine.

“This hospital goes in, and Mercy won’t make it,” Ashby said, as reported by The Gazette of Cedar Rapids. “We’ll try. But we will not make it. And that would be the first case. That would be the test case. I don’t believe that it would stop there.”

UIHC has the option to appeal the decision or reapply under a different application. UIHC CEO Suresh Gunasekaran said administrators are awaiting the council's written justification for its decision before making any moves.

“We haven’t decided what’s next, but we are exploring ways to move forward with the project," Gunasekaran told the Press-Citizen.

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