Hilton Head Hospital will break ground this month on a $16 million outpatient medical center in Bluffton.
The 60,000-square-foot facility, the source of friction between the hospital and its rivals from Beaufort and Savannah for months, will include women's health services, diagnostic imaging and occupational and speech therapy services.
The groundbreaking is planned for 11 a.m. Jan. 15 on a 12-acre site near the intersection of U.S. 278 and Buck Island Road.
"We are extremely excited to start construction on the new outpatient center in Bluffton," Mark O'Neil, president and CEO of Hilton Head Regional Healthcare, said in a written statement Friday.
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Hilton Head Hospital spokeswoman Kelly Presnell said the center will consolidate service the health system already provides in the region into one building that also will house doctors' offices, X-ray equipment and lab services. She said the center will create about 30 new jobs.
Fraser Construction of Bluffton will begin work there soon, O'Neil said.
Site preparation began several weeks ago. A temporary fence was installed at the site last week, and several trees have been marked for removal. Construction is expected to take about 15 months.
Bluffton Mayor Lisa Sulka, a longtime supporter of the project, called the groundbreaking a milestone.
"I am thrilled they have gotten to a point they can break ground and move forward," she said. "The hospital world is a crazy world and everyone wants a piece of the pie. But I think Bluffton is big enough to support all of the hospitals here."
She described the center as a win for local residents and a financial boon for the town: As a for-profit business, Hilton Head Hospital will be required to pay property taxes.
The outpatient center was first announced in 2011, but its development was delayed for several months after Beaufort Memorial Hospital and St. Joseph's/Candler Health System in Savannah challenged the proposal. Both hospitals already operate similar centers in the Bluffton area.
The new center received regulatory approval and the rival hospitals eventually dropped their opposition. Hilton Head Hospital also stopped protesting St. Joseph's/Candler's acquisition of a CT scanner without a certificate of need.
Certificates of need, which are granted by S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control, affirm that a new medical facility or service is needed in an area. Unnecessary facilities and services can drive up medical costs.
Follow reporter Casey Conley at twitter.com/IPBG_Casey.