When Central Baptist Hospital opened in 1954, a $2.5 million building with 173 beds and two delivery rooms, some had reservations about it being too far out in the country to draw many patients.
On Wednesday, the hospital formally began construction of its $200 million expansion amid the hum of Nicholasville Road traffic. Central Baptist, which draws patients from Lexington, Central, Southern and Eastern Kentucky, is on what has become one of the city's busiest corridors.
One part of the expansion will be a women's center. Central Baptist has long had a booming obstetrics business, and by 1983 was celebrating the delivery of baby No. 50,000; it has delivered nearly 150,000 babies overall.
The expansion also will include a cancer center, space for additional medical offices and a new parking garage.
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The hospital currently has 571 physicians, 207 allied health professionals and 2,600 employees, according to Dr. Elvis Donaldson, president of the hospital's medical executive committee.
"This new building ... represents a collaboration of forward-looking leadership and medical staff," Donaldson said.
Bill Sisson, chief executive of Central Baptist, said he was proud of the move to all-private patient rooms, which he said will be better both for patients and their families.
"When I get sick, I don't want to be in there with somebody else coughing," Sisson said.
Sisson also told the approximately 300 community leaders, staff members and others at the groundbreaking that he had not forgotten about Central Baptist's commitment to build a hospital in Hamburg, an area that has become Lexington's new boom town.
Hamburg, he said, "will be the place we use for our second hospital."