LEXINGTON, Ky. (Sept. 30, 2009) − Construction of the new University of Kentucky Albert B. Chandler Hospital reached a significant milestone today, as a beam signed by workers was raised to the structure's highest point. The ceremonial "topping-out" marked the final stages of steel-frame construction for the 1.2 million-square-foot hospital.
"We are witnessing the construction of one of the most technologically advanced hospitals in the country," said Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear. "This is a day of excitement and pride for everyone who will be delivering care inside this building.
The construction team, UK employees and students celebrated the beam raising during the annual UK HealthCare employee picnic, with remarks by Governor Beshear, Lexington Mayor Jim Newberry, UK President Lee T. Todd Jr., and other university officials.
"This is an important step forward in one of the largest construction projects in state history," said Dr. Michael Karpf, UK executive vice president for health affairs. "This project is on time and on budget, and I am eager to see the hospital's doors open to provide Kentucky with a state-of-the-art and welcoming facility. Today, we are another step closer to opening a facility that will help us keep pace with the unprecedented level of growth UK HealthCare has experienced over the past several years. As the university moves toward Top 20 status, our patient volumes and quality care have put us in a league with some of the nation's best."
Anchored to the steel beam were an evergreen tree symbolizing growth and luck, along with U.S. and Commonwealth of Kentucky flags. Faculty, staff and students also joined the history-making event by signing several additional beams that will be part of the structure. The event is a traditional celebration for iron workers.
“This topping-out ceremony marks an important milestone for the University of Kentucky,” said UK President Lee T. Todd, Jr. “As impressive as this new building looks from the exterior, I am more thrilled about what this facility will mean for the future of health care in Kentucky. This building is more than just a hospital. It represents UK’s commitment to creating a healthier, better-educated Commonwealth that is uniquely prepared to meet the challenges of the 21st century.”
The new hospital, an approximately $700 million project, will open in phases, starting with the emergency department in the summer of 2010. Its design will allow it to adapt to ever-changing needs to provide the most advanced care. The planning that has gone into the facility ensures that it will be a home of medical innovation and quality care for years to come.
"Having a facility of this caliber in the heart of Kentucky offers peace of mind to anyone in the Commonwealth facing a major illness or injury. Having a facility of this caliber in the heart of Lexington offers unlimited possibilities for the future of our community. The facility will help us improve the health of our citizens, grow our economy, provide new jobs and boost UK’s bid for top 20 research status," said Lexington Mayor Jim Newberry. “Congratulations, UK.”
Patients from every Kentucky county come to UK for treatment, with more than 30,000 inpatient visits last year. Adding to UK's statewide impact are the 3,100 doctors who graduated from the UK College of Medicine and are now serving in 94 Kentucky counties. Each physician generates $1.5 to $2.5 million in annual income to its local community and creates 12 to 18 new jobs in a small town.
"The impact of the UK medical campus stretches far and wide, reaching the people in our campus, throughout the state and beyond," said Mira Ball, UK Board of Trustees chairwoman. "This facility will enhance the learning process for future health professionals who will be serving the needs of many, while fostering growth and healing for the citizens of Kentucky."
UK Chandler Hospital is part of an academic medical center where physicians not only see patients, but also conduct research, publish in medical journals and educate future physicians.
"We serve many patients with complications of well-known and rare diseases or severe traumatic injury," said Karpf. "Experience with complex patient cases, coupled with time spent in the laboratory and classroom, enable our physicians to offer an advanced level of experience and cutting-edge knowledge when making a diagnosis and devising a treatment plan. UK's advanced subspecialty care is among the best in the nation and we will soon have a facility that matches the level of care we provide."
UK Chandler Hospital employees have played a role in designing patient care areas. Early in the process, clinicians toured a mock emergency department, set up to scale on the football field in UK's Nutter Field House. And, nurses walked through full-scale mock-ups of the hospital's patient rooms and gave feedback to the design team on how the patient room should be arranged to promote their best work.
"The clinicians who will be caring for patients in this space were pulled into the process early on so that the new hospital will be designed in the best possible way to allow us to do our jobs successfully," said Jeff Ritzler, a nurse and evening shift supervisor in the emergency department. "It is amazing to see our vision during the planning process starting to take shape."