Health & Medicine

Requested $1 billion hospital expansion at UK moves forward with no hearing on 120 additional beds

The University of Kentucky Albert B. Chandler Hospital
The University of Kentucky Albert B. Chandler Hospital Herald-Leader

There will be no public hearing on the University of Kentucky's request to add 120 hospital beds through a $1 billion project.

No requests for a public hearing were received by the state by the 4:30 p.m. Friday deadline.

Instead, state health officials will review UK's certificate-of-need application to determine how it fits with the state health plan; then officials will decide whether the project can move forward by Feb. 18. If approved and completed, UK would have 945 beds, an increase of 14.5 percent at a cost of $416,666 for each additional bed.

UK's application is available for public review at

State law allows any "affected parties," defined as anyone who gets health care in the geographic area served by the hospital, other places that provide similar care or third-party payers such as health insurance companies, to request a public hearing to state their reasons for challenging the application.

The other large hospital chains operating in Lexington did not request a public hearing and had no comment. Those chains are Baptist Health, owner of 383-bed Baptist Health Lexington, and KentuckyOne Health, which owns St. Joseph East, with 217 beds, and St. Joseph, with 433 beds.

State law requires a certificate of need in order to change the location or use of a bed or add beds to a hospital. State health officials review applications to make sure they fall in line with the overall state health plan, which tracks health resources across the state to ensure access to health care without glutting the market.

Kristi Lopez, spokeswoman for UK HealthCare, said the 120-bed expansion would be the largest ever for UK.

In 2006, the state approved a certificate of need allowing UK for a project to replace 192 beds in Chandler Hospital. That has become known as the tower project.

Dr. Michael Karpf, UK's vice president of health affairs, has said previously that the goal of that project was never an expansion but an upgrade of the original 1950s-era Chandler Hospital.

When the tower project was announced in 2004, it was to cost $400 million and be completed by 2009. Currently, half of the 12 floors in the tower are essentially empty. The projected completion date is 2020 or 2021, at a total cost of $1 billion.

That doesn't mean UK hasn't added beds. Since 2010, UK has gained state approval to move 115 acute-care beds from Good Samaritan to UK, which bought Good Sam in 2008, and moved 80 beds in 2010 and 35 more last spring.