Health & Medicine

Saint Joseph unveils new women's hospital

First, about that abstract 30-foot aluminum sculpture on the front of the building, off Richmond Road in the Eagle Creek medical complex: It's a mother and child.

Second, about what that building will do: It's Saint Joseph's $60 million run at unseating Central Baptist Hospital as Lexington's big dog in the obstetrics market. It opens at 7 a.m. Monday.

Third, about what else could happen on site: Should Saint Joseph make its goal of delivering 3,500 babies annually, up from the 2,000 it delivers now, it could build another hospital just like it next door — three floors, 60,000 square feet.

Finally, it has free Wi-Fi.

It also has a 16-bay neonatal intensive care unit (double what the Saint Joseph hospital next door has), a dads-only lounge for the guy who needs to unwind alone for a few minutes during delivery and a play area for siblings.

Its tagging system for newborns is state-of-the-art security and can even shut down exit and entry. Its tile has 13 coats of wax. Its wood laminate floors are unscathed, its walls a soothing buttery shade and covered with Kentucky art. Its waiting areas and rooms have "healing" colors: greens, golds, burnished bronzes, an occasional swath of blue. There's a freestanding spa tub ("costs as much as a car," jokes Denise Hundley, Saint Joseph's administrator of women's services) to help mothers struggling with back labor.

Saint Joseph is counting on such luxuries as Tempur-Pedic mattresses and valet parking at the front door to increase its share of the baby delivery market, long the province of crosstown rival Central Baptist on Nicholasville Road. (Saint Joseph has a hospital on South Broadway and another, Saint Joseph East, next door to the new women's center on Eagle Creek off Richmond Road. The Broadway location does not deliver babies.)

Not only has Saint Joseph spent big bucks on its new facility, it has remembered the small touches: There's a "tunnel of light" down the center of the building, an enclosed open center court so that each patient room — and indeed, most public areas — gets some natural light. Tiny hand-knitted caps smaller than your fist are already set up in some of the neonatal incubators. Everybody gets a waiting room, from the sibling play area to the husband/partner's retreat.

Eric Gilliam, the administrator of Saint Joseph East, said that when the hospital held focus groups among patients seeking ways to better serve women, the sentiment was overwhelming: "They wanted a dedicated women's hospital."

The new Saint Joseph hospital also offers premier services for women who aren't in the baby business. The Women's Health Institute on the first floor acts as a one-stop shop for women to get health care: Doctors with offices elsewhere in the building — from cardiologists to podiatrists — will rotate in the high-visibility spot, and a nurse navigator will quickly direct the patient to additional services; it's a version of the "patient medical home" you're hearing so much about in the health reform bill signed last week by President Barack Obama.

Says Hundley: "A lot of women like me don't want to spend a lot of time at the doctor."

And, she says, setting up separate facilities for women acknowledges that women tend to have a different, more stoic attitude about health care: They wave off potentially dangerous symptoms — which can be different from those experienced by men — figuring that they've got too much to do to worry about aches and pains.

"We want women in Lexington to know if they have health care needs, they can come here and get those needs met," says Ken Haynes, president of Saint Joseph Hospital, Saint Joseph East and Saint Joseph-Jessamine.

He says the new facility will have a 24/7 "hospitalist" obstetrician in the building in addition to the doctors who will be coming in for patient deliveries, a practice that will allow potential problems to be spotted earlier and ensure continuity of care during labor: "It will be a game changer for this market. ... It's very new, and, we think, a better level of care.

"More importantly, it's responding to what the patients ask for."

Competition heats up

Central Baptist, long the region's dominant force in the baby-birthing business, says it's not worried about Saint Joseph encroaching on its specialty. Central Baptist delivers nearly 4,000 babies a year; the University of Kentucky Hospital delivers 2,000 and expects that number to increase to 2,400 by 2014.

Is the baby market in Central Kentucky big enough for all three hospitals, or will they be duking it out for a dwindling share of the market? Statistics from the Kentucky Hospital Association show that the number of obstetrics inpatient days has increased from 32,721 in 2000 to 38,298 in 2008 — a rise of about 17 percent.

UK also points out that its birthing center is the leading facility in Central Kentucky specializing in high-risk pregnancies and deliveries, has the only Level III nursery — a neonatal intensive care unit for the most critically ill newborns — and has a nationally recognized gynecologic oncology division.

Central Baptist touts its long experience as Central Kentucky's dominant "baby hospital," says president Bill Sisson: The hospital has three full-time perinatalogists and a neonatalogist on staff 24/7: "If you go ... out in Lexington, or Central Kentucky anyway, everybody's brother, sister or uncle had a baby at Central Baptist. We continue to do the best to take care of babies.

"I don't really worry about what they're going to do," Sisson says. He says Central Baptist's long-term reputation as an obstetrics and neonatal care expert "is more important than building a building."

With Lexington's Big Three hospitals all marking out territory in the women's care business, competition may become fierce. Still, Haynes, at Saint Joseph, thinks the new women's hospital is in the right location at the right time.

Hospitals across the nation have stepped up their services to make the childbirth stay more luxurious and pampering, particularly for the new mom. Cedars-Sinai hospital in Los Angeles offers luxury suites, stocked refrigerators and spa services, plus a complimentary personal mother's aide.

"We're starting to be the place to deliver your baby in the city," says Haynes. "... We know we provide Ritz-Carlton service, but to provide it in a in a Ritz-Carlton facility will be awesome."