Beaufort News

Impasse ends on building outpatient center in Bluffton

Two hospitals vying to expand services in Beaufort County -- and at the same time trying to block each other's plans -- have called a truce.

Hilton Head Hospital announced Friday that St. Joseph's/Candler Health System will no longer fight its plans to build an outpatient center in Bluffton near the intersection of U.S. 278 and Buck Island Road.

The center had received approval from the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control board, but the Savannah-based St. Joseph's/Candler had appealed that decision.

In exchange, Hilton Head Hospital agreed to drop its challenge of DHEC's decision to allow St. Joseph's/Candler to acquire a CT scanner without a certificate of need, according to a news release.

"At the end of the day, we all want what is best for the patients living in Bluffton, Hilton Head and the surrounding communities," Paul P. Hinchey, president and CEO of St. Joseph's/Candler, said in a statement. "It was important to move on with the business of providing excellent and expanded services to the people of Beaufort County.

"The positive response we've received from our growth in the area shows that expanded medical services are needed, and this agreement will allow both systems to move forward at the appropriate time."

Earlier this year, Beaufort Memorial Hospital and St. Joseph's/Candler requested a hearing before the S.C. Administrative Law Court to object to the proposed $18 million Hilton Head Hospital outpatient center. Both hospitals have since dropped their objections.

In Friday's news release, Mark T. O'Neil Jr., president and CEO of Hilton Head Regional Healthcare, said the deal was mutually beneficial.

"We are extremely pleased to be able to proceed with the development of a new outpatient center in Bluffton," O'Neil said. "The outpatient center is being built so that health care needs of the overall area in southern Beaufort County can be better served, and we believe this outpatient center in Bluffton will increase accessibility and quality of outpatient services."

The proposed 60,000-square-foot, two-story building would include diagnostic-imaging services, digital mammography, and a variety of adult and pediatric physical, speech and occupational therapies.

The center also would house the Genesis Clinic, currently at 1 Burnt Church Road in Bluffton, which provides prenatal care for local Hispanics.