Jan. 20, 2011

Iowa State gets green light to purchase Des Moines veterinary hospital

by Anne Krapfl

By the end of the month, Iowa State will purchase a private veterinary hospital in Des Moines for about $4.5 million and operate it through a nonprofit organization affiliated with the university. The state Board of Regents approved the plan 7-0 during a special meeting Jan. 13, with regents Ruth Harkin and Craig Lang absent. The anticipated closing date for the purchase is Jan. 31.

Founded in 1980, Iowa Veterinary Specialties offers 24-hour small animal emergency care as well as surgical and internal medicine specialty care. Located on Creston Avenue just off 63rd Street in Des Moines, it's owned and operated by a team of veterinary doctors. Iowa State will buy the land, building and the active business. The hospital will have a collaborative relationship with the Lloyd Veterinary Medical Center at the College of Veterinary Medicine.

John Thomson, in his final week of service as dean of the College of Veterinary Medicine, told the regents the hospital would bolster the college's educational mission on several levels: It will expand opportunities for real-life experiences for veterinary students and faculty, and provide a venue for the college to improve its continuing education offerings to veterinarians and technicians in the Des Moines area. It also gives faculty and other scientists a venue to transfer their clinical research into practice.

"A primary goal of the college is to enhance and regain academic preeminence in the United States," he explained. "Serving the main metropolitan area in Iowa is one part of that process."

Paying for a hospital

The regents approved Iowa State's proposal for purchasing and operating the veterinary clinic.

Vice president for business and finance Warren Madden said the land and building ($1.55 million) will be financed through the regents' master lease program (administered through the ISU treasurer's office). Wells Fargo will be the funding source for a 10-year loan that will be paid off from the clinic's operations.

A trust created from Iowa State's sale of WOI Television to Capital Cities Communications Inc. in 1994 is the fund source for purchasing the non-real estate aspects of the business ($3.01 million). Over 10 years, this amount will be repaid to the trust, with interest. The trust also will be the source for a $450,000 loan needed to meet initial business operations needs.

Iowa State will restructure its existing nonprofit entity, ISU Equities, which has seen no business activity since the university sold WOI TV. The renamed ISU Veterinary Services Corp. will operate Iowa Veterinary Specialties and keep its tax-exempt status with the IRS. Its five-member board of directors will include three Iowa State administrators and two Des Moines-area practicing veterinarians. Dr. Lee Holmes, a veterinarian at the hospital, will be the chief executive officer of ISU Veterinary Services Corp. and report to the board of directors.

The hospital staff includes six full-time emergency doctors, two surgeons, an internist, a dermatologist, 30 veterinary technicians and six receptionists.

Madden said nearly all the hospital's employees will stay on and will be employees of the non-profit corporation. He said there are no immediate plans to transfer ISU employees to the hospital, but noted that joint appointments for faculty (Ames and Des Moines) might be possible in the future.