New $240 million Baptist Health hospital ready to debut

William Sisson, president and CEO, stood in front of the new facilities which include the shiny North tower at left, at Baptist Health Lexington on Thursday, November 19, 2015.
William Sisson, president and CEO, stood in front of the new facilities which include the shiny North tower at left, at Baptist Health Lexington on Thursday, November 19, 2015. Herald-Leader

William Sisson, president of Baptist Health Lexington, has waited for this hospital expansion for a long time, more than 20 years.

Now, the finishing touches are being put on the Baptist Health Lexington expansion, otherwise known as the North tower, for which ground was broken in 2010.

And what an expansion it is. Sisson always wanted the hospital’s 383 licensed beds to be all private — and they will be. There’s an intensive care unit with a huge, well-furnished waiting area and a CT scanner on the same floor; a birthing and postnatal wing with double Tempur-Pedic beds for patients and two rooms have birthing tubs; NICU rooms can accommodate up to triplets and quadruplets, and they have refrigerators for breast milk; and a new oncology unit allows patients receiving treatment to park underground and take a separate entrance.

Best of all, the $240 million hospital has paid for the construction as it went along, Sisson said. And it came in $10 million under budget.

“Timing is everything, but I wanted to make sure when we did it, we could pay for it,” Sisson said.

Baptist Health Lexington opened in 1954 at Central Baptist Hospital, a $2.5 million building with 173 beds and two delivery rooms. At the time, some fretted that it was two far out in the country to be convenient for Lexington patients.

Now, Baptist Health is all but downtown as Lexington has grown.

In 2010, hospital officials decided to expand the Nicholasville Road campus rather than build a new hospital in the Hamburg area, off I-75. Officials had announced the new hospital in east Lexington in June 2006. Baptist Health still owns 129 acres in Hamburg and has no immediate plans to build on it.

From one of its new North tower balconies — yes, the building has balconies — you can wave to the new hospital tower at the University of Kentucky Chandler Hospital.

On the ground floor of the North tower visitors will see tawny Italian marble floors with intricate designs around entrances and elevators.

I wanted to make sure when we did it, we could pay for it.

William Sisson, president of Baptist Health Lexington

The cancer center will be near the North tower’s retail pharmacy and cafe, making it more of a one-stop experience for patients who may have flagging energy during treatment.

Noted Kentucky landscaper John Carloftis has volunteered to design a garden for the oncology area.

The original hospital space, which will be called the South tower, will have all of its rooms brought up to the same standards of those in the North tower. Some of the rooms have already been renovated, and some soon will be.

The Baptist Health renovation and expansion means regular hospital visitors will have to switch their driving and parking routines. Rather than entering at one main spot off Nicholasville Road, visitors should pick one of three entrances closest to their destination. Three garages are designated for public parking, with one for employee parking only.

Four ob/gyn practices will have their offices just floors away from the labor and delivery area.

Additionally, the new tower has wider hallways, bigger nursing stations and more technology, including electronic boards at the room’s entrance that advise visitors of precautions to take when entering a patient’s room, such as donning a protective gown. Inside the rooms, electronic boards give patients information such as daily goals; the flat-screen TVs provide health information in addition to entertainment.

The hospital is also offering benefits such as massages for new moms and oncology patients.

Eating areas are available throughout the building, in addition to the new cafeteria. A washer and dryer is available to the families of intensive care patients. On each patient floor is a lounge with TV, a refrigerator and microwave.

“The whole building is as patient-focused as we can make it,” said Karen Hill, chief operating officer and chief nursing officer for Baptist Health Lexington. “It’s not just about the room. It’s about the staff and the care.”

The North tower is being occupied in stages. The ICU moves on Dec. 2, maternity services on Dec. 7. Oncology and other services will move early in 2016.

Already an information desk in the main lobby of the new tower is getting questions from passers-by about when tours will be available.

The answer: A grand opening will be held after the entire North tower is occupied.

For now, Sisson is happy to show off what’s available.

“It gives us an opportunity to give patients what they need. It’s one of my dreams come true.”

Cheryl Truman: 859-231-3202, @CherylTruman

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