UK HealthCare is buying majority ownership of a private surgical center in Lexington in an effort to make routine, out-patient surgeries cheaper and more accessible for its patients.
The University of Kentucky Board of Trustees’ executive committee voted unanimously Thursday evening to approve the $1.2 million purchase of The Lexington Surgery Center, a 27,000-square foot building at 1451 Harrodsburg Road. It has eight operating rooms and four procedure rooms used by surgeons in private practice.
UK and the center’s owners, Surgical Care Associates, will form a UK-affiliated corporation named Surgery Blue. UK will own 51 percent, with SCA retaining 49 percent. The $1.2 million will come out of UK’s clinical revenues.
The purchase is UK HealthCare’s first major move in a new strategic plan to improve access to care in Lexington for less acute patients, in addition to handling Kentucky’s most complex, high-level cases, said Mark Newman, who became UK’s executive vice president for health affairs last fall.
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“One of the things I heard loud and clear when I got here was we give great care, but it was hard to get access,” he said. “Now we want to create more of an ambulatory focus, to make it easier to get to us.”
That also can help ease the constant capacity problems at UK’s main hospitals.
“We struggle every day with access and capacity,” Newman said. “If we move lower acuity care out, we can take more complex care that’s coming from around the state.”
For example, all surgeries at UK — whether a complex heart transplant or a simple cataract removal — are done at one of three places: Chandler Hospital, the Gill Heart Institute, or Good Samaritan Hospital, which is owned by UK.
The new space at Lexington Surgery Center will make it easier for UK surgeons to perform out-patient procedures, such as cataract removals, ear tube placements or colonoscopies. It also will help patients avoid the more expensive rates charged by hospitals.
When the partnership is up and running, Newman said he expects UK doctors to perform up to 3,000 surgeries a year at the facility. The UK doctors will work alongside private practice surgeons who already use the space.
Officials said they expect to finalize the deal by Aug. 31 and have UK doctors there by October. The deal must be ratified by the entire UK Board of Trustees in September.
UK surgeons will bill their patients for surgeries there, with separate billing for use of the facility. If there is a profit at the end of the year, it will be split between the two partners.
The Deerfield, Ill.-based Surgery Center Associates, which is publicly traded, has 200 facilities nationwide and has already partnered with the University of California at San Diego in a similar venture, Newman said.
“It will be good for our faculty to work alongside community doctors,” he said.