A Savannah medical association hopes to build Bluffton's newest care facility, undeterred by ongoing legal challenges to Hilton Head Hospital's plans to build an outpatient center nearby.
Georgia Emergency Associates, an organization that recently opened urgent-care facilities in Hinesville and Statesboro, could open another in Buckwalter Place as early as March 2013, according to its president, Dr. Brian Kornblatt.
The group worked with the Thomas & Hutton engineering and design firm on a site plan for a 4,700-square-foot facility on a 0.7-acre plot. The plan was pitched to Bluffton's Development Review Committee on Tuesday.
If it's approved by the town's Planning Commission and receives necessary state-issued permits, Kornblatt said, construction could begin by November.
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The clinic would be a walk-in urgent-care center serving local businesses, Kornblatt said. It would offer occupational medicine, drug testing and worker's compensation and have on-site physicians and basic medical equipment, such as an X-ray machine.
Kornblatt said the site's location and Bluffton's expansion make Buckwalter an ideal place to build a center.
"If you look at the demographics, Bluffton's seen absolutely huge growth, and this would be stone cold in the center of town," he said.
Despite Komblatt's optimism, construction of care facilities in Bluffton has recently proved difficult for other medical organizations.
PACE Healthcare Management's plans to build a $78 million medical center on the Bluffton Parkway have made slow progress since being proposed to Bluffton Town Council in February 2011. The project has not come before the town since April 2011. The current status of that facility could not be immediately determined Wednesday.
More recently, Hilton Head Hospital's efforts to build an outpatient center on Buck Island Road were encumbered by a series of legal challenges from other local hospitals; the case has been assigned to a judge and could be heard before the S.C. Administrative Law Court later this year.
One of the parties opposed to that outpatient center is St. Joseph's/Candler Health System, which would be affiliated with -- though financially independent from -- the clinic proposed for Buckwalter Place.
Kornblatt said the close relationship between GEA and St. Joseph's/Candler could lead to some interchanging of medical personnel, but that his group would be the sole owner of this project.
Kornblatt said the issues affecting Hilton Head Hospital's proposal would not apply to his endeavor.
"We don't need a certificate of need to get this built," he said, referring to a S.C. Department of Environmental Control-issued document permitting construction of certain care facilities. "This (clinic) is so small, other hospitals won't bother."
DHEC spokesman Adam Myrick confirmed GEA would not require a certificate of need to build the clinic, explaining such facilities usually are exempt from that review.
Buckwalter Place developer Matt Green said his potential tenant would fit with his vision for the business community.
"The master plan was meant to integrate many types of synergistic uses," he said. "With our recent census growth and the aging of the 'baby boomers,' there is a lot of local medical interest."