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Community health is top priority in Central Kentucky

Area health care providers investing in facilities, technology and community

By Shannon Clinton

The new Baptist Health Hamburg medical campus is expected to be completed by the end of 2023, with patient care starting in early 2024, hospital officials said.

(CENTRAL KY. MARKET REVIEW) — In a year when the importance of health care services and providers was on full display, the growth of Central Kentucky’s health care systems has been evident with an ever-expanding list of new projects and services.

Look no further than Baptist Health Hamburg, a new $1 billion medical campus under construction along the I-64/I-75 corridor on Lexington’s northeast side. The project includes a multistory hospital and emergency department, an outpatient surgery center, a dozen other retail and medical office buildings, and two parking garages.

The Baptist Health Hamburg campus, currently under construction off Polo Club Boulevard, will improve access for Baptist Health Lexington patients.

The 129-acre development will be off Polo Club Boulevard near the Man O’ War exit off Interstate 75.

Work on Baptist Health Hamburg began in November 2020 and is moving along as scheduled, said Dr. Greg Repass, vice president of clinical support and physician specialty services at Baptist Health Lexington.

“We’re looking at completion by the end of 2023, starting patient care early 2024,” he said.

The new hospital will improve access for Baptist Health Lexington patients, 60% of whom come from outside of Fayette County, said Bill Sisson, president of Baptist Health Lexington.

In the past, medical facilities were built in selected locations and people were expected to come to them, said Dr. Jody Prather, Baptist Health chief strategy and marketing officer. Now, he said, the mindset is to meaningfully group different services with highest-level services housed on main hospital campuses and others in more convenient locations where consumers live.

“Our goal is to ensure we provide the right care when, where and how people want it,” Prather said.

Building toward the future

CHI Saint Joseph Health also has new projects and services in the works in its Central Kentucky operations, said CEO Tony Houston.

“As you can imagine, COVID-19 has really been taking our attention over the last 18 months,” he said.

New building projects may provide a welcome, forward-looking diversion. A new 20,386-s.f. outpatient surgery center opened in the Saint Joseph Office Park in Lexington in January 2021, with six operating rooms and six procedure rooms capable of handling up to 12,000 procedures annually.

In May this year, UK HealthCare announced plans for a new 260,000-s.f. outpatient cancer treatment center and advanced ambulatory complex to expand patient care services and enhance ease of access for the UK Markey Cancer Center.

Also in May, the UK Board of Trustees approved the design phase for constructing a new UK College of Medicine building with about 380,000 s.f. of classroom, simulation suite, conference room, office and support staff space.

In June, trustees approved the second largest single gift in university history, a $22 million commitment to the UK College of Medicine from Dr. Michael D. Rankin that will support construction of the new health education building as well as provide scholarships.

UK HealthCare’s five-year strategic plan includes opening two additional floors at UK Chandler Hospital Pavilion A between mid-2022 and 2024 and establishing a regional hospital in a location to be announced, with construction beginning in 2023 or 2024, it was announced at a September UK Board of Trustees retreat. The two additional floors will add 128 inpatient beds.

UK Turfland has expanded its services and doubled in size to about 160,000 s.f., according to Timothy Gaillard, vice president of administration, UK Medical Group. The second floor is a hub of new activity. There’s the UK HealthCare Hand Center, which provides hand surgery and hand therapy; a 4,405-s.f. newly renovated space for the Kentucky Neuroscience Institute Child Neurology Clinic and the Sanders-Brown Center on Aging, set to open in November 2021 in a 15,000-s.f. one-story building at the Turfland site.

However, Gaillard said he’s most proud of the expansion of the primary care footprint locally and regionally.

“We will strategically identify areas that will bring significant benefit to the community,” he said. “We continue to work on our strategic plan and the strategic facilities master plan in conjunction with our campus colleagues.”

Kentucky facilities boast top rankings

The University of Kentucky Albert B. Chandler Hospital is UK HealthCare’s flagship facility. UK Photo

Accolades for Kentucky health care facilities poured in this year from a number of respected sources.

In July 2021, Saint Joseph East and Saint Joseph Hospital became the first Lexington hospitals to each be accredited as a Center of Excellence in Robotic Surgery by the nonprofit patient safety organization, the Surgical Review Corp.

And for 2021-22, U.S. News & World Report recognized both hospitals as high-performing hospitals, with Saint Joseph Hospital ranking for colon cancer surgery, heart attack, heart failure and kidney failure procedures, and Saint Joseph East rating for its hip replacement, kidney failure, knee replacement, pneumonia treatment and recovery care.

UK Chandler Hospital at UK HealthCare was also highly ranked by U.S. News & World Report, one of several brag-worthy developments the health care system shared.

UK Hospital was ranked No. 1 in Kentucky and in the Bluegrass region in the 2021-22 Best Hospitals rankings and ratings for the sixth year straight, and the UK Markey Cancer Center was ranked in the Top 50 for cancer care nationwide.

In the adult specialties of gastroenterology and GI surgery, UK HealthCare was ranked high performing, as well as in geriatrics, orthopedics, urology, COPD, colon cancer, heart bypass and lung cancer surgeries, heart attack, heart failure, hip replacement, kidney failure, pneumonia and stroke.

Forbes also listed UK HealthCare as one of America’s best large employers, taking the No. 34 spot in the Top 500 and seventh out of the Top 25 in its industry.

Earlier this year, Baptist Health was named to Forbes’ list of America’s Best Large Employers, one of only 26 employers nationwide in its industry with that distinction.

And for the fifth year running, Baptist Health’s two largest hospitals placed in the Top five in Kentucky in the 2021-22 U.S. News & World Report Best Hospitals listings, with Baptist Health Lexington ranking third and a fourth-place showing for Baptist Health Louisville, which was also named No. 1 in metro Louisville.

Keeping in touch with telemedicine

In 2019, 43% of health centers were able to provide telemedicine, compared to 95% of those who reported using telehealth during the COVID-19 pandemic, with the largest increase reported in April 2020, according to one U.S. Centers for Disease Control report.

Kentucky’s health care providers have reported similar increases in telehealth demand and capabilities.

Dee Beckman, chief nursing officer for Baptist Health Lexington, said telehealth is having its day, but predicts as the pandemic wanes, its popularity will decrease over time. There’s simply no full substitute for seeing patients in person, she said.

Dr. John Dvorak is medical director of the robotic surgery program at Saint Joseph Hospital, which has been accredited as a Center of Excellence in Robotic Surgery by the nonprofit patient safety organization, the Surgical Review Corp.

“I think telehealth will remain an effective way to reach a health care provider in a non-emergent situation,” she said. “I think that won’t go away. I think there will be quite a few things in health care that will be forever impacted by the pandemic. How we care for patients will not change, but the structure of the health care team might.”

Houston of CHI Saint Joseph Health said people will always need help from health care professionals, and sometimes that care comes in the form of telehealth, which he said is popular with patients and caregivers alike.

To help more rural Kentuckians in 11 counties gain access to telehealth, CHI Saint Joseph’s charitable foundation received $152,690 in matching donations and a $869,644 USDA grant to fund interactive monitors and telehealth equipment. The effort will impact about 450,000 residents in Bell, Clark, Fleming, Knox, Laurel, Madison, Montgomery, Nelson, Pulaski, Taylor and Whitley counties, who will be able to access specialty care from physicians at Saint Joseph Hospital in Lexington.

And at UK HealthCare, Gaillard said telehealth continues to play an important role for patients and providers.

“When clinics were highly restricted during the beginning of the pandemic, our clinics moved from seeing a few hundred patients via telehealth per month to over 22,000 last April,” he said. “This summer, UK ambulatory clinics conducted 7,000 to 8,000 telehealth visits per month, with that number increasing as COVID became more prevalent.”

Virtual clinic visits are especially needed by patients living far from facilities, those with mobility challenges or who are taking more social distancing precautions, he said. And, for many, it’s simply convenient.

Still, he said, “Not all clinic visit types are appropriate for telehealth, so our clinics work with patients carefully on the best option for their care.”

Other changes are being made in the workforce realm. To attract and retain the industry’s best, CHI Saint Joseph Health made a more than $3 million commitment to raise the minimum wage of its full-time, part-time and temporary hourly employees at hospitals and physicians’ offices to $15 per hour. Those already at that threshold also received a pay bump, he added.

“That’s a really foundational investment into our workforce as we move forward as an organization,” he said.

And with that gesture, it’s only fitting that the faith-based organization also launched a “Year of Humankindness” initiative to celebrate people, commit to the common good and encourage others to do likewise.

Houston said the systemwide effort, which has included a successful ad campaign, a “Blessing of the Rigs” for EMS personnel, activities benefitting humane societies and “Chalk it Up to Humankindness” chalk art events, is meant to amplify that health care is more than just addressing sickness.

“It’s really about elevating and helping each other throughout our lives,” he said.

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