For the past week, heavy equipment has roamed the future site of Hilton Head Hospital's Bluffton outpatient center, removing trees and preparing the lot for construction.
The earth-movers took a break Tuesday morning as local politicians, businessmen and hospital executives marked the occasion with a ceremonial groundbreaking. Approximately 125 people, most affiliated with the project, attended.
The $16 million center will be on 12 acres off Baylor Road, which runs from U.S. 278 to Buck Island Road, cutting through the Bluffton Commons shopping center. The outpatient center could open as soon as this year.
Mark O'Neil, CEO of Hilton Head Regional Healthcare, a subsidiary of Tenet Healthcare Corp., said the "state-of-the-art" center will be home to numerous specialized health care services, such as breast health, orthopedics, diagnostic imaging, various types of therapies and doctors' offices. A sign already advertises medical space for rent.
"It's a one-stop-shop concept, where people can get most of their health care needs met right in their own communities," he said. "We are calling it a hospital without beds -- it will have that many services in it."
And there is room to expand, he said.
Donna Williams, chairwoman of the Hilton Head Hospital and Coastal Carolina Hospital board of governors, called Tuesday "an exciting day for our health care system."
"This project reflects our commitment to grow along with the community and provide essential health care services," Williams said.
Bluffton Mayor Lisa Sulka and Hilton Head-Bluffton Chamber of Commerce CEO Bill Miles also spoke, alongside executives from Tenet Healthcare's Dallas office and developer Rendina Cos.
Sulka thanked the company for expanding in Bluffton and said she was eager for the center to open. Because it is a for-profit company, Tenet Healthcare will pay property taxes on the new center.
Representatives from Fraser Construction and other local firms involved in the project also were recognized.
Hilton Head Hospital spokeswoman Kelly Presnell said the new center will consolidate in one building many services the system already offers throughout greater Bluffton, creating about 30 new jobs in the process.