• Bob Vlach, Woodford Sun Staff

Haggard discusses hospital's past, future

Bluegrass Community Hospital remains "very strong and sound financially," according to hospital CEO Tommy Haggard. He points to the vision of LifePoint Health - Making Communities Healthier - in explaining why the company chose to open Bluegrass Community Hospital in Versailles more than 15 years ago. Its opening on Jan. 2, 2001, came after Woodford Memorial Hospital closed its doors. LifePoint Health has recently demonstrated a willingness to invest in the construction of a new state-of-the-art hospital facility in this community, but the reality of that happening has been at least delayed by a civil lawsuit. The suit filed in Woodford Circuit Court seeks to overturn a decision by Versailles City Council to rezone land (known as Edgewood Farm) for development along Lexington Road, including a proposed site for a new hospital at the Paynes Mill Road intersection. Bluegrass Community Hospital's parent company owns other hospitals that also need financial resources to fund new construction, renovations and additions so Haggard said, "I can't say it would or would not happen" when asked about the odds of a new state-of-the-art hospital being built here. If Bluegrass Community Hospital were ever able to relocate to a new facility in Woodford County, Haggard said, BCH will probably remain a critical access hospital licensed for 25 beds. However, "We would always want to build (a new hospital) in mind that if we needed to expand we could," he added. Haggard, who has been CEO at Bluegrass Community Hospital since coming here in July 2010, said a new facility would offer an opportunity to provide more and enhanced medical services to patients. "Were we to relocate into a modern facility," he continued, "it would help us with our recruiting" of new physicians. He said "a more robust" medical staff would happen as patient volumes grew. According to Haggard's research, a hospital has operated at its current location on Amsden Avenue in Versailles since 1907. "It's challenging (as a location for a hospital) because it's often hard to find," said Haggard. "There is no visibility from a main road." As a result, a lot of people don't even know Woodford County has a hospital, he said. First housed in a donated home, some areas of Woodford County's hospital date back to 1910, with main portions of the current hospital facility dating back to the 1940s and 1960s, Haggard said. "There's a back wing of the hospital that was built in the '40s that we still utilize every day," he said. He noted that the hospital's most recent expansion occurred in 1984. It provided space for an emergency department, radiology and lab. Having three or four main portions of the hospital built in different eras can cause difficulty whenever upgrades are made. "Renovations are really difficult to do," said Haggard. Less-invasive improvement projects, such as installing new floor tile in patient rooms, are undertaken to spruce up the hospital facility, "but as far as changing operational flow or any major structural changes to patient rooms or things like that are very difficult - if even possible with the new codes," said Haggard. Maintenance work on plumbing and other mechanical systems are more problematic in an aging hospital facility, Haggard said. As a result, financial resources are spent on aging mechanical systems and the hospital's maintenance crew is often so busy using their ingenuity to deal with those issues that beautification projects on the building and grounds are not possible, he said. "If we were to move into a new facility," said Haggard, "I would hope we wouldn't lose our resourcefulness because some of the obstacles we have overcome every day have made us a better team." Even when he worked at Georgetown Community Hospital, Haggard always felt welcomed by the staff at Bluegrass Community Hospital. "I felt like I was as much a part of this hospital as the one that my desk was at," he explained. ".So when an opportunity came up to lead this hospital, I definitely wanted to be here. And I saw the potential in the community, and for this hospital." Haggard says the quality of care for routine procedures such as colonoscopies and gallbladder surgeries are just as good in community hospitals as anywhere else. And technology has made many surgeries and medical procedures less invasive, he added. Patients can get stress and mammography tests at Bluegrass Community Hospital, and physicians are doing knee and hip replacement surgeries here. So it irritates Haggard when he hears someone describe Bluegrass Community Hospital as "a Band-Aid station." "We see almost 10,000 ER visits a year. A lot of those folks, we stabilize that wouldn't have made it to another hospital," said Haggard. "Band-Aid stations do not do total hip replacements or total knee replacements . and rescue people from cardiac arrest." As a critical access hospital, Bluegrass Community Hospital is licensed for 25 beds. Those beds are available for acute (in-patient) care and as "swing beds" for patients recovering from surgeries or those who need antibiotic infusions over a long period of time. Bluegrass Community Hospital has about 130 full- and part-time employees - equivalent to 90 or 95 full-time employees on any given day in terms of hours worked, Haggard said.

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