NICHOLASVILE — Starting next week, Jessamine County will have a 24-hour emergency room.
The St. Joseph-Jessamine RJ Corman Ambulatory Care Center will make emergency care 26 stoplights closer for Jessamine County residents, Rick Corman said at the center's ribbon-cutting celebration Monday.
"That's the reason we're here today, and that's how much closer we are to getting fixed," Corman said.
The facility opens Jan. 2.
Jessamine County doesn't have a hospital. The closest ones are in Lexington, separated from the county by the busy Nicholasville Road corridor.
When traffic is bad, the trip can take as long as 30 minutes, Judge Executive Neal Cassity said.
Jessamine County residents hope the emergency room will be a first step toward a full-fledged hospital.
"People in Nicholasville have always thought we needed a hospital," Cassity said. "I think this is the beginning of it."
St. Joseph-Jessamine is a 24-hour emergency room built to hospital standards. It has 14 beds, three of which are trauma bays.
The medical facility includes a lab, diagnostic services and physician offices. It cost more than $25 million to build and will employ approximately 80 people, not including doctors. There will be at least one doctor on site at all times.
The new emergency room will be able to treat and observe patients for as long as 24 hours. If patients need additional care, they will be transferred to hospitals in Lexington, said Chris Bowe, administrator of the new center. As is typical in emergency rooms, most patients will be treated and discharged.
The emergency room will be able to handle all but the most severe trauma cases and high-level heart cases, Bowe said.
When those cases arrive in the emergency room, patients will be stabilized, then taken to Lexington. Most often, ambulances will take those cases straight to Lexington, Bowe said.
The emergency room should free up ambulances in Jessamine County, because crews won't always have to bring patients to Lexington, Cassity said.
Eventually, St. Joseph wants to open a surgical center and a hospital in Nicholasville, said Jeff Murphy, a spokesman for St. Joseph.
County officials have worked for years to expand medical services in Jessamine County, and they are excited about the new emergency room.
"It's going to be a great thing for Jessamine County," Cassity said.
The emergency room can't open soon enough for John Martin, the former mayor of Nicholasville.
The last time Martin's wife had an allergic reaction, there wasn't an ambulance available in Jessamine County to take her to the hospital, Martin said. They were all out on other runs.
There wasn't time for an ambulance to come from outside the county either — his wife was "shutting down." So Martin drove his wife to Lexington. Luckily, it was a Sunday, and traffic along the Nicholasville Road corridor wasn't bad.
"I was moving along pretty well," Martin said. "On a normal day, you just can't hardly get there at all."