Health Care

SC’s first ‘micro hospital’ is now planned for Bluffton and will bring about 125 jobs

A “micro hospital” that was expected to open in Okatie Crossing will instead be built in Bluffton.

The $44 million facility received approval last week from the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control and, if approved by the town, will be built on 13 acres at the intersection of Buckwalter and Bluffton parkways behind Publix.

It is expected to bring about 125 jobs to the area and will have 15 emergency room beds, as well as 20 beds for “acute care,” which includes orthopedic and cardiology care, along with labs, imaging and general surgery, according to a news release.

Micro hospitals differ from regular hospitals primarily in their size. A micro hospital is designed with only a small number of beds and is less expensive to run than a larger hospital, but it offers similar services, barring extreme circumstances. They also tend to appear in locations that are not as close to a major hospital.

When it opens, the micro hospital would be the closest emergency room and acute care hospital for Bluffton residents. Coastal Carolina Hospital is in Jasper County, about 16 miles from Bluffton; Hilton Head Hospital is about 11 miles; Beaufort Memorial Hospital is about 30 miles; and MUSC is the farthest at about 93 miles.

The new site will sit within the town limits of Bluffton, but the administrative offices will be built, starting this fall, at the Okatie Crossing site.

The project is a joint venture between Beaufort Memorial Hospital and the Medical University of South Carolina and would be the first of its kind in the state.

A master plan has not yet been submitted to the town, according to Heather Colin, Bluffton’s director of growth management.

Construction is expected to be completed in 2022.

More intensive care and procedures will still take place at Beaufort Memorial Hospital.