When a comprehensive history of the 21st century in Marshalltown and Marshall County is someday written, 2022 will almost certainly be remembered as the year local healthcare changed forever.
UnityPoint led the charge with the transition from a downtown hospital constructed in 1914 to a brand new $38 million facility on the south edge of town along with a new express clinic on South Center Street and the relocation of the family medicine clinic to West Nicholas Drive.
As the Times-Republican has previously reported, the hospital project was the culmination of an idea that hatched about five years ago when UPH first agreed to take over the bankrupt facility, then operated by Central Iowa Healthcare. Jenni Friedly, the president of UPH — Marshalltown, has been involved from the get go, and seeing it all come to fruition has been a dream come true.
Above all else, Friedly credits her UPH team for staying the course and enduring a trying period before coming out stronger than ever on the other side.
“They’ve had so much change if you think about the last five years going from the bankruptcy to a new organization… but staying tied to the community and showing the community that we want to be here to be their healthcare provider of choice,” Friedly said. “The new building kind of put a bow on that for our team.”
As Friedly and other leaders like Hospital Administrator Shari King and UPH — Waterloo President/CEO Pam Delagardelle have repeatedly emphasized, the investments in Marshalltown are also a golden opportunity to win back patients who may have looked elsewhere for their healthcare needs during the transition period. So far, Friedly said, the reviews of the new hospital, which went fully operational on April 27, have been overwhelmingly positive.
Since the open house for the new hospital on April 23, UPH — Marshalltown has received two more key recognitions, one local and one national. In April, it was announced that the Wound Care Clinic had received the West Division Center of the Year Award for 2021 from Healogics, the largest provider of advanced wound care services in the nation, the top honor for any center west of the Mississippi River.
The team was honored during a ceremony at the new hospital on June 2, and Wound Care leadership expressed pride in being noticed as one of the best centers in the country.
“I think it shows our dedication and hard work, and it shows that we care, and frankly that we’re good enough to accomplish this,” Dr. J. Michael McCune, the medical director, said at the time.
Another major accolade rolled in later in June when UPH — Marshalltown received the Community Impact Award at the annual Marshalltown Area Chamber of Commerce banquet, highlighting the investment in the new hospital and the organization’s commitment to keeping critical health care services in the community for the long haul.
“I am so proud of our team for what they’ve done with this project (and) the way they’re embracing the community. They’re so passionate, really, about providing healthcare,” Delagardelle said after receiving the award. “We’re looking forward to all the ways we’re going to continue to support the Marshalltown community with their healthcare needs.”
As Friedly sees it, the awards aren’t just a nice recognition for a job well done. They’re also a recruitment tool both for potential employees and patients who might want to utilize UPH’s services.
“We should be proud of that, and we do build off of that every chance we can to recognize our team but then also invite the community in, like we did with our open house, to really share that piece of it,” she said. “We’ll continue to do that, and I think we should highlight that Wound Care recognition… because that’s huge for the community.”
Although the hospital has grabbed the lion’s share of the headlines over the last year, UPH, as previously mentioned, also made two other key moves in Marshalltown with the opening of the express clinic on South Center Street and relocating the family medicine clinic, which had previously operated within the downtown hospital campus, to West Nicholas Drive.
These clinics are important, Friedly explained, because they allow patients to receive care in non-emergency situations and free up the hospital to deal with the most serious cases. It’s more efficient, and it provides a better patient experience.
“That’s really all part of the redesign of healthcare is getting patients to the right site at the right time so that we can use our facilities to the best of their abilities,” she said. “We want the ED to be open and ready when you have a traumatic incident or a heart attack or something severe happening, and we want to make sure that patients are getting care when they need to be seen right away because their child has a fever or an earache. That’s the point of having express care, and family medicine is the basis for all of healthcare.”
When she looks at the bigger picture and everything that UPH has accomplished in Marshalltown over the past five years, Friedly, who has been with the UPH — Waterloo organization for 13 years now, credits her boss, Delagardelle, for her vision and passion for providing community-based healthcare. It wasn’t always an easy process, and it sometimes necessitated difficult conversations about what Marshalltown needed and why patients were looking elsewhere.
Three national consultants were called in to assess the situation and provide recommendations, and ultimately, some services were discontinued. The new hospital, as has been previously reported, is substantially smaller than its predecessor in terms of beds, but that decision was consciously made to reflect the evolving reality of modern healthcare.
“It’s taken every bit of the five years to really go through all of those processes, but I don’t think I could’ve envisioned the outcome being any better than it is right now,” Friedly said. “I say this all the time, (but) it gives us something to build on. We get these services, and people come back and start using these services, which they have. In the first two months, we’ve seen that people are doing that.”
At the end of the day, Friedly brings it all back to her team — from the doctors, nurses, program directors and first responders to the support staff and maintenance crew, everyone plays a role in moving healthcare forward locally.
“Our team members that work and live in Marshalltown love their community, and we couldn’t have done this without them. They need to be highlighted in all of this,” she said. “It’s unbelievable what they’ve been through and the stories that they have. To build a new hospital in a community, that’s a once in a lifetime thing. Most communities never see that or will never see that. As a leader and a team member, that’s a once in a lifetime thing. I’m positive I’ll never do that again.”