Central Baptist's $200 million expansion is on schedule, CEO says

Central Baptist Hospital is undergoing a $200 million expansion. More than two years after ground was broken, there's still a ways to go before construction is complete, sometime in 2015.
Central Baptist Hospital is undergoing a $200 million expansion. More than two years after ground was broken, there's still a ways to go before construction is complete, sometime in 2015. Lexington Herald-Leader

Sometime in 2015, the construction cranes at Lexington's Central Baptist Hospital will be gone.

So will the construction fencing, building detritus, fenced-off areas and swarms of outdoor workers.

The hospital's $200 million renovation and expansion will include a 400-space underground parking garage, a new oncology center that gives cancer patients their own entrance, and a women's center for Central Baptist's prospering obstetrics business and other women's and infant services. It will also offer all private rooms and continue free valet parking for all visitors and patients with a new way-finding system.

But the completed project is still about two years away, and the groundbreaking, in 2010, was a long time ago.

Nonetheless, says chief executive William Sisson, "we're on budget, and we're on time. ... We're going to have to be accountable to the community for what we build."

So, what's new and nearly ready at Central Baptist in early 2013?

First, there's the matter of the name change. Beginning in February, Central Baptist will be formally known as Baptist Health Lexington to identify it as a member of the Baptist Health hospitals throughout Kentucky.

Also, there is new covered parking for five to seven ambulances. There was no covering for ambulances before.

The structural steel for the tower will be up by March.

The cancer center will be ready by the fall of 2014.

The remainder of the tower including the cancer center and the women's center will open floor by floor in 2014. Central Baptist now has some semi-private beds; when the renovation and expansion are complete in 2015, it will have 383 private beds.

All-new intensive-care unit beds will be staffed by intensivists, doctors who provide monitoring and support for critically ill patients.

And then there's the cafeteria and patient nutrition area, which is a particular source of pride.

Central Baptist's cafeteria has for decades been in the basement; parts of the ceiling are within reach of an extended arm.

Soon the cafeteria will have soaring ceilings, a panoramic view of the Nicholasville Road area letting in plenty of natural light, fancier seating, and blast chillers, which cool food quickly to a temperature that is safe from bacterial growth. Salads will be custom-made, and a wider variety of food, of both healthful and comfort varieties, will be featured. The hospital staff is still talking about whether to have sushi.

Patient meal service will be overseen by "hospitality representatives" who will take care of 20 to 30 patients using wireless tablets rather than the traditional paper-ticket hospital menu that asks patients to mark with a pencil if they'd like a margarine patty with their wrapped slice of bread.

Food waste will be channeled into a slurry that will eventually become compost.

The commitment to being green is a far cry from when the hospital opened in 1954, when green referred not to environmentally responsible practices but only to the open space surrounding Central Baptist.

Then, the hospital cost $2.5 million, had 173 beds and was considered so far out in the country that some fretted about its viability.

Fewer people worried about the viability of the Hamburg area, where Central Baptist still holds 129 acres of land on which it once intended to build a hospital.

Sisson said the land will remain in Central Baptist's portfolio. It's not for sale.

Sisson is not sure how it will be used, but he remembers that when he started at the hospital as an administrator, in the mid-1980s, he had to share a parking lot with a church next door.

He doesn't intend to let go of land he might need later.

"That will be for the future, and for things that will serve the community," Sisson said.

In the meanwhile, Central Baptist has opened various satellite locations around Lexington and its suburbs — including Hamburg, Brannon Crossing, Beaumont, Southland Drive and Georgetown — where patients can get procedures such as ultrasounds and magnetic resonance imaging without having to come to the main hospital.

"That's been our strategy for the last eight to 10 years," he said. "We have moved out into the community."