State to consider two proposals to build a hospital in Jessamine

NICHOLASVILLE — Two competing applications for acute-care hospitals in Jessamine County are scheduled to be heard in Frankfort next month.

Saint Joseph Jessamine, which opened a 24-hour emergency room in Nicholasville at the beginning of 2009, wants to build an adjoining 50-bed hospital that includes surgical services. Total cost: $25.3 million.

The Medical Center of Jessamine County, a dream of developer Dallas Murphy, would be a 50-bed hospital on the south side of Nicholasville that also includes surgical services. Total cost: $32.5 million.

The fast-growing county is the only one adjacent to Fayette County that does not have a hospital.

The applications are filed with the state agency that gives permission for new medical facilities to be built, and are both are scheduled to be heard during a "comparative hearing" on Jan. 19 in Frankfort.

Getting permission to build a new hospital in Kentucky is a rigorous and lengthy process, and just because a hearing has been scheduled doesn't mean it will actually happen, nor does it mean that any application will be approved.

Applications for both proposals were filed in 2006. They have been scheduled for hearings several times over the years, and each time the hearings were postponed, usually because one party or the other sought a delay.

The applicants have been told in the past that state criteria does not allow for an acute-care hospital in Jessamine County, said Jeff Murphy, spokesman for Saint Joseph HealthCare.

Nevertheless, the fact that there are proposals for a hospital in the county is welcome news to residents there.

"I think we desperately need a hospital here," said Nancy Stone, executive director of the Jessamine County Chamber of Commerce. Medical facilities are in more abundance now than they were a few years ago, as Saint Joseph, Lexington Clinic, Central Baptist Hospital and others have added more diagnostic services.

Jessamine has a population of 46,716, according to a 2008 estimate by the Kentucky State Data Center, and is projected to have more than 60,000 by 2020.

Saint Joseph Jessamine says in its application that the proposed hospital would attach to the ambulatory care center that opened Jan. 2 at the intersection of U.S. 27 Bypass and Ky. 169. The hospital would house 46 medical/surgical beds, four critical care beds, four operating rooms, and two endoscopy procedure rooms.

Offices for physicians, an ambulance garage and a helipad for helicopters would be adjacent to the facility, according to the application. Total employment is estimated at 250 people.

The Medical Center of Jessamine County was initially proposed by Associated Healthcare Systems of Jessamine County LLC, which is now doing business as Trinity Healthcare System LLC.

It would go on a site near the Memorial Sports Complex in south Nicholasville, near Hoover Pike. That is the site where Trinity Healthcare had a groundbreaking ceremony on Dec. 17 for an $11 million ambulatory care and diagnostic center that is to be completed in 2010.

As initially proposed, the hospital would offer medical imaging, four operating rooms, and one endoscopy suite and a host of services, including centers for pain care, sleep disorders, and occupational and physical therapy.

Murphy, the developer who also built Memorial Sports Complex, has long sought to build a medical campus in Jessamine County.

"We want eventually for Trinity to be a full-blown hospital," Murphy said. He did not want to make any other comments about the matter without consulting with the attorney handling the certificate of need application.

Whatever comes, Stone, the chamber of commerce director, said her thoughts are best summed up by what a local farmer told her.

"He said he didn't care what we get as long as we had a hospital.'"