The new $14.5-million Pratt Emergency Center is a healthy sign for Beaufort Memorial Hospital and for Beaufort County.
The 20,500-square-foot facility that opened to patients Wednesday was three years in the making. With more space, more treatment rooms, two triage rooms and two trauma rooms, the hospital is much better equipped to handle the 120,000 people, including 40,000 patients, who come to the emergency room each year. It expects those numbers to grow.
Beaufort County needs its local, not-for-profit hospital that treats all comers regardless of ability to pay to thrive. The new emergency room is among several positive signs for the hospital.
Beaufort Memorial is a county hospital, with its board members appointed by County Council and a County Council member serving as a non-voting member of the board. But because of the hospital's positive financial position, spending-conscious Beaufort County did not fund the hospital in its 2012 or 2013 budgets. Historically, the county has contributed to indigent care.
The hospital also recently completed a Women's Imaging Center.Under construction is a building to house medical support services. This, and the new emergency room, bolster its main campus on Ribaut Road. It also has purchased land for future services on Lady's Island and purchased 20 acres across from Sun City Hilton Head for multiple buildings that will expand services in southern Beaufort County.
At the same time, Hilton Head Hospital will break groundTuesday on its new $16 million outpatient center in Bluffton.
The faith-based, not-for-profit St. Joseph's/Candler system of Savannah also provides health care in Beaufort County.
The landscape for health care is complex and volatile.
But as we see it, it is healthy for Beaufort County to have thriving, competing providers, as well as the charitable clinics staffed by volunteers and underwritten by donations.
Medical care is a growing economic force in the county, fueled by a large population of well-insured seniors.
Beaufort Memorial alone had a payroll of $84 million in 2011.
Its new emergency room also reflects healthy charitable contributions. The project was put in motion by a $1.5 million gift from Dr. Bruce Pratt in honor of his parents, Dr. George N. Pratt and Sarah Meyer Pratt. Beaufort Memorial employees contributed another $1 million. The hospital benefits from regular allocations from the Beaufort Memorial Hospital Foundation, totaling $950,000 in 2011.
Beaufort Memorial and the Hilton Head Hospital, owned by Tenet Healthcare Corp., have come a long way since opening their doors in 1944 and 1975, respectively. The growth and expansion they are showing now are significant advances for Beaufort County.