Beaufort News

Hilton Head Hospital plans $18 million expansion in Bluffton

Hilton Head Hospital wants to build an $18 million outpatient center on U.S. 278 in Bluffton to consolidate some services it already provides at other locations and offer new ones.

Hospital president and chief executive officer Mark T. O'Neil said the "one-stop" medical facility, planned for 12 acres west of Buck Island Road, would include comprehensive diagnostic imaging services with equipment, such as a nuclear medicine camera.

In addition, the 60,000-square-foot building would house a breast health center featuring digital mammography. Adult and pediatric physical, speech and occupational therapies would be available, as well as cardiopulmonary, lab and primary care services.

The two-story building would also have offices available for lease to primary-care and specialty physicians.

O'Neil said the money needed for the project is lined up with the hospital's parent corporation, Tenet Healthcare. Florida-based developer Rendina Companies will oversee construction.

Hilton Head Hospital will file for a certificate of need from the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control, O'Neil said. DHEC assesses demand for medical facilities to prevent an oversupply of them in an area.

If DHEC grants the certificate, construction could begin in early 2012, O'Neil said. The center would create between 30 and 40 news jobs, hospital officials said.

"For us, it's just a natural expansion in a community we've already been serving," O'Neil said. "The new location allows us to consolidate and integrate our overall system for the betterment of the residents living in southern Beaufort County."

Because the proposed center would provide a central location for imaging and other services, some services provided at other Hilton Head Hospital facilities in southern Beaufort County would relocate to the new building. For example, wound-care services at Coastal Carolina Hospital in Hardeeville would be folded into the new center, and various clinics in the area would close, vice president of business development Tom Neal said.

The Bluffton-Okatie Outpatient Center near Sun City Hilton Head, which provides primary health care and ambulatory surgery, will remain open, Neal said.

"We believe this Bluffton outpatient center will increase accessibility and quality of outpatient services," said Dr. Robert Burnaugh, Hilton Head Hospital's chief of staff.

The proposed center would occupy a vacant lot between The Island Packet/Beaufort Gazette building and a Bank of America branch. The Bluffton Commons at Belfair shopping center, anchored by a Publix supermarket, is behind the property.

Bluffton Mayor Lisa Sulka said the site is already zoned for the hospital's new center, and "they're not asking for anything from the town."

"They're capturing the growth," Sulka said. "I think residents are going to be happy to have outpatient services in that location."

The center would not require changes to public roads, O'Neil said.

Hilton Head Hospital's planned expansion joins several other health care providers interested in Bluffton real estate.

PACE Healthcare Management wants to a build a $78 million inpatient center to rehabilitate patients who are at risk of further hospitalizations. PACE officials have asked the town of Bluffton to consider a public-private partnership that would include a bond issue to offset site development costs for the 198-bed facility.

Beaufort Memorial Hospital is planning an outpatient center on Buckwalter Parkway after Beaufort County Council approved a frontage road in February for the proposed site. The building would house staff currently working in Bluffton and would allow for expansion.

O'Neil said the latest census figures suggest the area's population -- and its need for health care providers -- will grow. A Bluffton location is the most convenient to serve that population, he said.