KentuckyOne Health expanding heart institute

KentuckyOne Health, the parent organization of health care organizations in Central and Eastern Kentucky that often operate under the Saint Joseph name, said Thursday that it plans to invest $30 million into its KentuckyOne Heart and Vascular Institute over the next three years.

"You have to have the technology that is leading the charge nationally," said John Smithhisler. KentuckyOne market leader in Lexington. "This is going to give us the opportunity to invest more into that technology."

The Institute operates across several of KentuckyOne Health's locations throughout the state.

The company said in a statement that it had invested more than $100 million over the past 10 years, so its total investment would be $130 million.

Smithhisler and Robert Salley, KentuckyOne's director of cardiovascular services in Lexington, said the Institute's work is vital in a state that has some of the highest rates in the nation in cancer, obesity and hearth disease.

The $30 million expenditure will include outreach, collaboration, technologies and programs.

The money "allows us to recruit and retain the high-quality physicians we need ... to provide the very best quality available in Central and Eastern Kentucky," Salley said.

Saint Joseph laid off 40 employees in its Lexington hospitals in September. Asked whether the new initiatives could potentially increase the number of hospital employees, Smithhisler said hospital management has "to be prudent and work ... to identify where the skill sets are required."

"That will be an ongoing process," he said. "The addition of technology often requires the skill sets to be improved at the hospital level."

Ultimately, Smithhisler said, the need for additional employees "will be dependent on the additional volumes."

KentuckyOne is the largest health system in Kentucky, with more than 13,600 employees in Kentucky and southern Indiana and 2,325 licensed beds.