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University of Kentucky Approves $375M Hospital Project

Sat January 15, 2005 - Midwest Edition
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LEXINGTON, KY (AP) University of Kentucky (UK) HealthCare officials announced a plan to build a new patient care facility on the UK campus a project that could cost an estimated $375 million.

University trustees met Dec. 14 and unanimously approved the plan, which would be funded from existing revenues generated by UK Hospital and a $250 million bond issue financed by UK HealthCare.

Its a big one for us, board chairman James Hardymon told his fellow trustees, who voted without debate.

The state legislature also would have to approve the new patient care facility project and its funding before construction could begin. State Sen. Ernesto Scorsone, in whose district UK is located, said he thought the proposal would receive legislative approval.

The hospital serves so many people throughout the state, I think there will be a lot of support, Scorsone said. There will be scrutiny to make sure the revenue stream is adequate to support it, and thats understandable, but I think overall, this is the kind of project that will find an easier chance of approval than some others.

If approved, the patient care facility eventually would replace the hospitals current facility which opened in 1962 with 52 beds although the old facility wont necessarily be razed, UK President Lee Todd said.

We have not improved the bed-tower facility since it was built, Todd said. We service patients from all 120 counties [in Kentucky]. We are making this move to be a top 20 institution, and in order to do so, we need the best facilities we can have.

Michael Karpf, the universitys executive vice president for health affairs, warned of dire consequences if the current facility which he called outdated and too small by modern hospital standards isnt replaced.

If we dont replace this building in a reasonable amount of time, the medical center will move backward, Karpf said.

The new 240-bed facility would include all private rooms that would be significantly larger than the ones in the current facility, Karpf said.

UK Hospital currently is licensed for 473 beds, and Karpf said he doesnt think that number will need to increase, even with the construction of the new facility.

Karpf said the hospitals strong financial position would allow it to handle the facilitys capital construction costs without having to rely on state money. He said discharges from UK Hospital are up 13 percent in fiscal year 2005 which started last July compared with the first quarter of fiscal year 2004.

We cant expect any financial support from the state, nor are we asking for any financial support from the state, Karpf said.

Karpf said that 1,600 jobs would be created during the peak of construction, and that when the new facility opens in either 2010 or 2011, an additional 1,300 jobs mostly professional positions would be added.

If youre going to stay in the race, you have to have the facilities, Todd said. It does not take general fund money away from anything else at the university. What it will do is it will generate more research income, which will give us flexibility.

The new facility is the first phase of a university strategic plan that will include expansion of outpatient space at Kentucky Clinic South on campus and enhancement of Kentucky Clinic.

The plan also calls for immediate enhancements to patient-care areas, including operating and chemotherapy suites and the emergency department and the recruitment of new faculty in subspecialty areas.

Trustees also approved a request from UK HealthCare officials for $20 million to expand the hospitals ambulatory care facilities.

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