St. Joseph projects back

St. Joseph Health System will restart three construction projects it put on hold in November, the company announced Thursday.

The projects are a women's health and maternity center at St. Joseph East in Lexington and new hospitals in Mount Sterling and London.

The projects were put on hold because of concerns about the economy, but St. Joseph's parent company, Denver-based Catholic Health Initiatives, has decided to restart them, Jeff Murphy, a spokesman for St. Joseph Health System, said Thursday.

The projects at St. Joseph East and London were in the midst of construction when they were put on hold. The project in Mount Sterling was still in the design phase.

Murphy said that both East and London needed the new facilities because of their growing patient populations.

"We need the additional space sooner rather than later," Murphy said.

At St. Joseph East, for example, the number of babies born there has increased from 350 in 1998 to 2,000 in 2008. The new Women's Hospital will be able to handle 3,000 deliveries a year, Murphy said.

In a memo to employees, St. Joseph Health System administrators said the decision by CHI was a vote of confidence for the hospital group.

"We are still exceeding budget year to date, and CHI recognizes that our first year as a new system has been an extremely successful one," the memo said.

CHI reorganized seven Kentucky hospitals, including St. Joseph Jessamine, a free-standing emergency room, into one group last January.

Construction in Lexington and London will be restarted as soon as possible, Murphy said. New time lines for completion have not been calculated.

Before the delay, the women's center in Lexington was scheduled to open in late 2009. The new London hospital was expected to open in 2010. Construction had not started at the Mount Sterling location. It was scheduled for completion in 2010.