Health Metro Louisville

University of Louisville Health officials announced Thursday they plan to invest $144 million into an upcoming project to expand and renovate the 40-year-old downtown facility. 

Officials say the upgrades will include a seven-story tower, which will add around 20 new patient rooms, for a total of 360 private rooms. It will also add four new operating rooms and a 24-bed observation unit, which will ease strain on the emergency department. Officials said the expansion will create space for more than 40 additional patients, and reduce wait times.

There will also be a new lobby and waiting area, with renovations to the gift store and coffee shop. 

Officials project the expansion will be done by 2024, and said it will add 325 new jobs – nurses, clinical and nonclinical staff. 

U of L Health CEO Tom Miller said during a news conference Thursday the upgrades, which U of L leaders have discussed for more than a decade, are much needed as more seek specialty care at the only Level 1 trauma center in the region. 

Level 1 trauma centers provide the most comprehensive care for serious injuries that require a fast response, according to Medical News Today. They often have surgeons on staff 24 hours a day. 

“Every day this past year, 40 patients a day didn’t get a room in our hospitals [and] had to stay overnight in the emergency departments or in our recovery areas,” he said. “Today is the day to prioritize the health of this community. And I will tell you as an academic health care facility, we take that responsibility to heart.”

Leaders including Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer, Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear, U.S. Rep. John Yarmuth and U of L President Lori Gonzalez also spoke at the news conference.

Beshear praised the hospital system for its work in COVID-19 response and vaccine rollout, and said the project will help the hospital provide better service to residents beyond the pandemic. 

“This expansion is great news for the Commonwealth because you treat patients from all 120 counties and now you’ll be able to serve even more people and hopefully we can put this pandemic behind us and then address so many challenges in health that afflict our people,” he said. 

According to the Kentucky Department for Public Health, more than half the counties in the state – including Jefferson – are considered at a low level for spread of the virus. The positivity rate statewide is 3.08%. 

The project will be funded through a mix of internal capital investment, tax-free bond financing, hospital revenue bonds and private donations, according to a news release.

Aprile Rickert is WFPL's health reporter.