Nov. 6—IOWA CITY — COVID-19 has altered many aspects of University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics operations — including employee safety protocols — prompting the facility to stock up on protective gear and now seek warehouse space to store a decade-worth of supplies.

Iowa's Board of Regents next week will consider a UIHC request to lease 15,047 square feet of warehouse space for the next 10 years from Hubbard Warehouse I for — among other things — "COVID-19 pandemic related storage."

The space sits adjacent a 27,000-square-foot UIHC warehouse at 3400 Second St. in Coralville.

If approved, the deal would cost UIHC $1.35 million over the decade — $130,000 annually for the first five years and $139,750 annually for the last five.

"In response to the COVID-19 pandemic and the downstream effects of its supply chain, UIHC has greatly increased its emergency pandemic stock — as well as its stock of high-use medical supplies," according to the UIHC request to the Board of Regents.

UIHC officials in the pandemic's early months were expressly worried about personal protective equipment (PPE) supplies — like masks, gloves and gowns. With COVID-19 cases soaring nationally and jumping locally, UIHC imposed emergency preservation protocols allowing health care providers to use the same mask repeatedly and letting employees who were not on the front lines wear homemade cloth masks.

Although UIHC over time ramped up its PPE supplies to a comfortable level, executives noted persisting "vulnerabilities in health care's global supply chain as a reaction to the current/future pandemic."

"There is less confidence in handling key PPE in a just-in-time stock approach due to this global shift," according to the UIHC request. "Additional supplies procured by UIHC have helped to safeguard the hospital from supply chain disruptions and large spikes in demand."

But, officials added, they have no place to put the supplies.

"These supplies are currently being stored in areas that are taking up space needed for other operations," the request states. "Further, they are stored in locations that make access and rotation of stock difficult and inefficient."

Among UIHC's many PPE protocols, all staff in clinical settings must wear medical-grade masks and eye protection — with face shields preferred over goggles. The campus also made masks and sanitizer widely available for visitors and others.

UIHC CEO Suresh Gunasekeran told reporters earlier this week his campus has sufficient protective gear at this time — even as it ramps up stage one of its surge plan in response to soaring COVID-19 case numbers statewide and an uptick in its coronavirus patients.

The warehouse, if approved, also could store durable medical equipment supplies and medical equipment purchased for capital projects.

"It is a relatively new building and in exceptional condition, which is important considering the storage environment requirements (including climate control) of medical equipment and supplies," the request states.

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