Health & Medicine

UK previews new emergency room to open July 14

University of Kentucky Hospital unveiled its new emergency room to reporters Monday, a major milestone in a more than $532 million replacement project that officials say might reach completion four years sooner than expected.

The new emergency room opens to the public at 5 a.m. July 14.

Michael Karpf, executive vice president for health affairs for UK Healthcare, said he now thinks the 12-story hospital will be completed in 2016 instead of 2020. Depending on how long it takes to finish the hospital, the whole project might cost more than $760 million in today's dollars.

Karpf said UK needs to finish the hospital sooner than planned to meet increasing demand for medical care in the community and region.

Karpf gave a tour Monday that included the almost-complete emergency room and most of the hospital's shell — right up to its two jumbo rooftop heliports.

The old emergency room, less than half the size of the new one, eventually will be used for pediatric outpatient services.

UK is anticipating an uptick of 8 percent to 10 percent in emergency business once the new facility opens — not necessarily because there are more emergencies in the area, but because of curiosity about the new UK emergency center and its capability as an advanced trauma center.

Roger Humphries, UK's director of emergency medicine, compared the process of trading in the old emergency room for the new one as going from a Ford Pinto, a pokey compact made in the '70s, to a Cadillac. Karpf begged to differ: He says it's like going from a Ford Pinto to a Ferrari.

As such, he said, the new UK emergency room will be ready for any injuries generated by the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games that start Sept. 25.

"This is probably the most sophisticated trauma unit in the world," Karpf said. "When it opens up, any trauma that comes up, we can take care of."

The new emergency center includes separate entrances for adult and pediatric patients, and a pediatric waiting room that features a shadow wall in which children can play with shapes, colors and illuminated butterflies.

The emergency room also includes high-tech innovations — surgery can be done at some of the stations, and there's an in-room electronic labeling station for patient specimens.

The new ambulance bay can hold up to a dozen ambulances; the old one could hold two.

When the new emergency room opens, the portion of a sky bridge over South Limestone that connects to the Limestone parking garage also will open.

Other features of the emergency room include:

■ 20 standard exam rooms, four "crisis rooms" and four secure rooms to serve psychiatric patients.

■ A Level I trauma center, the highest level of care for severe injuries, which includes three major trauma rooms capable of caring for up to eight patients.

■ An "Express Care" area that includes a "chair-centric" room for patients who might be discharged quickly.

■ A pediatric emergency center with 10 standard exam rooms, two "crisis" rooms and two triage rooms.