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Sunday, July 9, 2006 E-mail this | Print page

Medical center to open

Northeast gets Norton facility

By Patrick Howington


The Courier-Journal

There are no skycaps at Norton Healthcare's new medical center in northeastern Jefferson County, but Norton hopes people will see some resemblance to an airport when the center opens tomorrow.

"We wanted to make it as easy-access as airports are," said Russell Cox, Norton's chief operating officer. That includes "the ability to drop off (patients), close-by parking, very clear marking, and very clear direction on the way to get where you are going."

That's why Norton Medical Plaza has long curbside areas to unload or pick up patients, surface parking around the building, and an entrance lobby that funnels patients into primary-care offices or a diagnostic center.

The $20 million project's other component is an urgent-care center. It has a separate entrance, at the other end of the building from the main entrance.

Norton Medical Plaza, measuring 86,000 square feet over three stories, is the first installment of a medical complex that Norton Healthcare is building off Ky. 22 just east of the Snyder Freeway.

A second and much larger building will house a full-service hospital that will open in early 2009 -- the first new hospital in Jefferson County in about 25 years.

Norton's complex is part of a wave of new health-care construction in fast-growing northeastern Jefferson County. Jewish Hospital & St. Mary's HealthCare plans to build an outpatient center about half a mile from the Norton complex, and Baptist Hospital East plans to build one off La Grange Road a few miles away.

Between tomorrow and the end of the year, Norton expects its medical plaza to have about 18,000 patient visits to its first floor, the only one that will be open at first.

The upper floors are reserved mostly for specialty physicians, who will start moving in later this year.

The center, in the Old Brownsboro Crossing development, is two miles from the Oldham County line, in a census tract that grew 55 percent between 1990 and 2000.

Stacie Stivers, who lives in a subdivision that straddles the Oldham-Jefferson line, said the new center will be welcome. The nearest hospitals -- in downtown Louisville, St. Matthews or La Grange -- are at least 10 miles away.

"It's nice to know there's something right down the road here," Stivers said.

In the past, she and family members have gone to emergency rooms and imaging centers in St. Matthews and Southern Indiana. Stivers said she'll still go to her doctor's office in St. Matthews, but will consider Norton Medical Plaza for urgent care or other medical needs.

With the center only about two minutes from home, she said, "Why would I go downtown?"

Norton commissioned Kentucky artist Dave Caudill to create a large stainless-steel sculpture that hangs in the center's two-story entrance lobby.

Glass doors lead from the lobby into the diagnostic center, which offers MRI (magnetic resonance imaging), CT scans, mammography, X-rays, heart testing and other screenings.

Under a new $10.5 million system Norton is installing across its Louisville facilities, images of scans taken at the center will be archived electronically and can be viewed by consulting doctors elsewhere -- for example, at Norton Hospital downtown.

Another set of doors leads into a large primary-care practice, Norton Medical Associates.

Seven family-practice and internal-medicine physicians will see patients there, but there's enough space to add five more doctors. The office includes 27 exam rooms, plus triage rooms, procedure rooms and rooms for doctors to record medical notes.

A Norton Immediate Care Center, the company's eighth in the Louisville area, rounds out the first floor. It will be open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. seven days a week to treat illnesses and minor injuries without an appointment.

Upper floors will include offices of cancer, lung, surgical, neurology and vascular specialists, among others.

The mix will reflect the range of doctors who will be needed once the hospital opens in 2009, said John Harryman, North/East Market president for Norton.

The $146 million hospital will have 127 licensed beds, which are being transferred from Norton Southwest Hospital.

The still-unnamed hospital will be connected to Norton Medical Plaza by a pedway stretching over an access road.

The hospital's opening in 2009 will mean some changes for Norton Medical Plaza. Diagnostic imaging equipment such as MRI and CT machines will move into the hospital, Harryman said. That will free up space for offices or other uses.

He said Norton hasn't decided whether the Immediate Care Center will remain after the opening of the hospital, which will have an emergency room.

Reporter Patrick Howington can be reached at (502) 582-4229.

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