$50M medical complex proposed for Nicholasville, Ky.

May 1--NICHOLASVILLE -- A developer wants to build a $50 million medical complex in south Nicholasville, and has received offers of support from University of Kentucky Healthcare and Danville-based Ephraim McDowell Regional Medical Center.

The 42-acre site off U.S. 27 would have an ambulatory care center and a medical office building. Eventually it might also include an assisted living center and even a helipad for an air ambulance, said property owner Dallas Murphy of Lexington.

In addition, Royal Manor Healthcare Facility, an 83-bed Nicholasville nursing home, has expressed interest in relocating from Sparks Avenue to the Murphy property, according to a letter from the home's administrator.

The project would continue Jessamine County's rapid growth in medical facilities -- though none is the full-service hospital county residents have sought.

Murphy's land is near the Memorial Sports Complex, a privately financed ballpark that draws thousands of youth baseball players and parents from all over the country to Nicholasville each year. The city annexed the property in 2005.

Murphy is not new to the effort to bring more medical services to Nicholasville. He supported Associated Healthcare Systems of Brentwood, Tenn., the former parent company of Samaritan Hospital in Lexington, when it received state approval in 2006 to put an ambulatory care center in Nicholasville.

But Associated Healthcare Systems filed for bankruptcy last fall. So, with approval from a Tennessee bankruptcy court, Murphy purchased the entity called Associated Healthcare Systems of Jessamine County LLC.

In January, Murphy's company, Memorial Sports LLC, became the sole member of Associated. Murphy is the sole owner of Memorial Sports LLC, which owns the land where the ambulatory care center will be.

In interviews this week, Murphy wouldn't say who was interested in affiliating with the south Nicholasville complex. But records submitted to the state include a letter of intent in which UK Healthcare expresses interest in providing doctors and consulting expertise for magnetic resonance imaging services. The state Cabinet for Health and Family Services approved a certificate of need for an MRI for the south Nicholasville site in mid-April.

Sergio Melgar, senior vice president for health affairs, said UK is "interested in making our physicians available" to the $9 million ambulatory care center -- a medical facility smaller than a hospital but larger than a clinic.

Ephraim McDowell Regional Medical Center also signed the letter of intent to provide administrative services, such as billing, for the ambulatory care center. A spokeswoman for the Danville facility could not be reached for comment.

Royal Manor administrator Sam Frazier wrote a March 5 letter expressing his support for the MRI application. That nursing home now takes patients to Lexington for MRI services, but Associated's plan "would allow our residents to stay in the community," he wrote.

Frazier also wrote: "Currently, we are looking to build a new facility, which would include skilled nursing and assisted living units, adjacent to (Associated's) medical plaza."

In a transcript of a March 13 hearing on the MRI certificate of need, Murphy said he is in negotiations with the nursing home to move to "within 300 feet of this MRI and ambulatory care center."

The $2 million MRI facility would be in a 16,000-square-foot ambulatory care center that would offer gynecological, orthopedic and other specialty services. The two-story medical office building would have 60,000 square feet.

Of the top 25 most populous counties in Kentucky, Jessamine is the only one that does not have an MRI, according to the Kentucky State Data Center and Kentucky Inventory of Healthcare Facilities.

"If all goes as planned, we will have an air ambulance stationed at this location," Murphy said. "We're not going to call them; they're going to be here."

The Murphy project would be the latest in a series of new facilities and services coming to Nicholasville. Jessamine is the only county contiguous to Fayette that does not have a full-service hospital.

Projections call for Jessamine County, which now has more than 39,000 people, to grow to more than 70,000 people by 2030.

On Monday, Central Baptist Medical Plaza opens in Brannon Crossing shopping center in north Nicholasville. It will include $1.5 million in all-digital technology, and will offer diagnostic imaging, CT scans and mammography, spokeswoman Ruth Ann Childers said.

Baptist Physicians Lexington will have primary care doctors on the second floor.

Lexington Clinic's Jessamine Medical Center is adding 10,000 square feet to its current 15,000. The Nicholasville clinic offers lab and radiology services, mammography, neurology, urology and gastroenterology. The expansion, to be finished by early summer, will add space for a new MRI, CT and ultrasound capabilities, plus vascular surgery.

Meanwhile, construction is full-speed ahead on St. Joseph Jessamine, a 40,000-square-foot facility that will have 24-hour emergency services, diagnostic imaging, labs and doctors' offices. That facility will open later this year at the U.S. 27 Bypass and Ky. 169.

Murphy is a Lafayette High School graduate and former Nicholasville police officer. In 1989 he started building homes, but drew attention in 2002 when he acquired the land for Memorial Sports Complex. More than 2,800 teams from the United States and Canada have played at the six-field complex since it opened in 2003.

He is also the founder and owner of U.S. All-Star Baseball, which organizes 100 tournaments a year.

Last year a 63-room motel and BP gas station were built next to Memorial Sports Complex. Murphy said the motel, which will be called All-Star Suites, will open in June, and the gas station will open later this month. Murphy said those had not opened earlier because he was concentrating on the medical plaza.

"We feel this is more important," Murphy said. "These folks deserve health care close to home. This is 2008. Jessamine County is not a stepchild of Lexington."

Murphy's ultimate goal is to have an acute-care hospital in Nicholasville so that people could have overnight stays closer to home.

"I will keep picking and fighting and scratching until we have one," he said.