Health & Medicine

Construction continues at Baptist Health Lexington; completion expected in late 2015

The main entrance and surgery drop-off area of the bed tower under construction at Baptist Healthcare Lexington. The new bed tower is scheduled to open late next year.
The main entrance and surgery drop-off area of the bed tower under construction at Baptist Healthcare Lexington. The new bed tower is scheduled to open late next year. Lexington Herald-Leader

Ruth Ann Childers stood in the middle of what eventually will be the new, more spacious intensive care unit at Baptist Health Lexington while rain dripped on the concrete floor and a nearby drill hummed.

Upstairs at the Nicholasville Road site, the new labor and delivery suite is under construction. When the building is completed, equipped and furnished, the specialty wings will be bigger, more modern and more light-filled than those at the old hospital.

A rounded concourse — also suitable as a walking path for visitors needing to stretch their legs — will lead to the posh cafeteria and kitchen, housed in two 14,000-square-foot suites. The food service area, which opened in February, already provides as many as 3,000 meals a day for patients and visitors, and it employs about 100 people. A temporary wall separates it from the rest of the hospital, but eventually, a concourse that begins in intensive care will lead to the cafeteria.

Childers, the hospital's spokeswoman, is standing in a piece of the new bed tower's skeleton before it is filled in with mechanical and electrical elements. Announced in 2010, the building is taking shape. Outside, there are the beginnings of a hole where a 350-space underground parking garage will be built.

You can look up through the dizzying steel pile that is the elevator shaft.

The new area will include an oncology center that gives cancer patients their own entrance. It will have a much larger chapel than that of the current hospital.

Although the addition — its cost now estimated at $230 million, up from $200 million — was begun in 2010, its construction timetable called for it to be finished in 2015. The schedule has been shifted to late 2015.

Hospital administrators at Baptist Health Lexington, part of the Louisville-based Baptist Health of Kentucky, decided that rushing to meet the timetable would have inconvenienced patients, staff and nearby neighborhoods.

They also wanted to address concerns about drainage and site stability. New extended traffic lanes in front of the hospital should alleviate backups on Nicholasville Road, Childers said, and the hospital will continue to offer free valet parking.

Throughout 2014, the hospital's construction team will work on the structure and mechanics of the new hospital tower.

Meanwhile, area residents are dealing with the hospital's name change. For its first 59 years — the hospital's first building, costing $2.5 million and with 173 beds, opened in 1954 — it was known as Central Baptist, but since February it has been known as Baptist Health Lexington to identify it as a member of the Baptist Health hospitals throughout Kentucky.

What will happen to the space in the current hospital when the new space opens?

Childers said that hasn't been decided. Given the expanding need for health care as the Affordable Care Act is implemented, she is confident it will be put to use.

And although parking patterns on the under-construction area have been a challenge and 100 employees shuttle from a lot on Lowry Lane, Childers said problems have been accepted with good humor.

"Our patients, our staff, our neighborhood has really been great in this process," she said. "We do appreciate their patience."

Bed breakdown

The new Baptist Health Lexington tower, projected to open in late 2015, will have the following bed types: ICU beds: 40 (an increase of 10); pre-delivery: 20; postpartum: 42; gynecological: 22; medical/surgical: 44; neonatal intensive care unit: 32. All patient rooms will be private in the new hospital.

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