Emily Blomberg, Chief Operating Officer for UI Hospitals & Clinics

In the weeks following the bankruptcy court’s approval of Mercy Iowa City’s sale to University of Iowa, leaders and teams across both organizations have been hard at work to ensure a smooth transition. Mercy employees are anticipated to become UI Health Care employees on Jan. 31, 2024.

Emily Blomberg, chief operating officer of UI Hospitals & Clinics and the executive sponsor of the Mercy Iowa City integration steering committee, provides insight into the integration process. Here’s what she has to say about what has been accomplished so far and what we still need to achieve: 

What can you tell us about the transition process to date? 

I am humbled by how quickly and thoughtfully our teams within the University of Iowa, UI Health Care, and Mercy Iowa City have come together to address this major undertaking. Our first task was forming an integration team comprised of leaders across our organizations. We defined the key workstreams that need to be involved in the transition. These teams have been working together on a daily basis to share information and better understand Mercy Iowa City’s current operations.

Our focus is on what needs to be in place Day One, the date the transaction is officially complete.  To help us with the transition, we are bringing on additional executive leadership support.

We’re very excited that on Jan. 2, Deborah Berini will begin serving as our Chief Integration Officer and Interim Chief Administrative Officer to lead management and integration of the Mercy Iowa City campus. Berini has more than 20 years of experience in health care leadership with expertise in employee engagement and hospital acquisitions. We look forward to welcoming her on campus shortly after she begins.

One of the biggest goals is maintaining continuity and stability for Mercy Iowa City employees and patients. A big focus is retaining Mercy Iowa City’s existing staff, physicians, and providers. They are critical to our ability to continue to serve the patients in our region. Our human resources teams have been sharing information and building the processes and tools needed to transition and welcome Mercy’s team into the university and UI Health Care.

How are we helping Mercy Iowa City employees through the transition? 

The day after the court approved the sale of Mercy Iowa City to the University of Iowa, Dr. Jamieson and I attended a series of town hall meetings for Mercy employees. We shared our excitement about the news, listened to the staff and providers, and answered their questions.

We learned a lot from those town halls. One of the recurring themes we heard from Mercy Iowa City staff is their desire for frequent communication during this transition. They experienced a lot of changes and uncertainty over the past months and want a sense of stability.

To give Mercy Iowa City employees easy access to information, we launched an employee information website called “Serving Together” in mid-November. We’ve also held benefits orientation sessions with Mercy Iowa City employees so they can better understand what it means to be a UI employee and the perks that come along with it.

One of our biggest accomplishments to date is launching a portal for Mercy Iowa City employees to start the transition of employment to UI Health Care. We are excited that nearly all Mercy Iowa City staff members entered their information into the portal by the deadline, keeping them on track towards the next steps in becoming official UI Health Care employees. We expect to send transition employment letters and provide open enrollment to benefits in early January.

It’s also important to honor Mercy Iowa City’s legacy and what that means to employees and our community. The Sisters of Mercy and Mercy Hospital leaders are planning a prayer ritual in January to honor the Sisters’ dedication to the hospital and commitment to the Iowa City community. The event will also recognize and show appreciation to community supporters as a new chapter of health care begins for the region.

What’s going to happen “Day One?”

There shouldn’t be any noticeable difference in care at Mercy Iowa City locations on Day One, expected Jan. 31, 2024, where we are focused on keeping Mercy Iowa City’s services as they are today. Patients will continue to go to the same locations where they have been receiving care, likely from the same staff caring for them today.

You will start seeing Mercy Iowa City’s new name, University of Iowa Health Care Medical Center Downtown, in a number of places like signage, but the full rebranding process will occur over a longer time period.

What can we expect over the long term?

In the long term, we are committed to building a model of care for our region that is sustainable and accessible while honoring Mercy’s legacy. Mercy Iowa City and UI Health Care each have strengths, and we are excited to see how integrating these strengths will allow us to better serve the health care needs of our region.

I am excited about our future and thankful to everyone who is helping make this transition as smooth and successful as possible for our people, patients, and community.

Integration workstreams:

Leaders across UI Health Care are involved in a series of activities and tasks for a successful transition of Mercy Iowa City to UI Health Care. Each workstream has a workstream leader, as well as multiple sub-workstreams.

  • Ambulatory Services
  • Clinical
  • Ancillary Services
  • Finance and Accounting
  • Revenue Cycle
  • Human Resources/Workforce Management
  • Information Management
  • Legal/Regulatory/Compliance/Policies and Procedures
  • Marketing and Communications
  • Medical Staff
  • Strategy
  • Support Services
  • Supply Chain