Hospitals compete to bring free-standing emergency center to Carolina Forest

Hospitals compete to bring free-standing emergency center to Carolina Forest

CAROLINA FOREST, SC (WMBF) - Three hospitals want to bring emergency services to one booming area in Horry County: Carolina Forest.  Health officials are complaining that area is lacking in medical services compared to the continued growth of the community.

The three regional hospitals looking to expand in to Carolina Forest are Conway Hospital, Grand Strand Regional Medical Center and McLeod Loris Seacoast Hospital.  All three have already chosen affiliated names for the possible future Carolina Forest campus, and construction costs are already estimated for each at around $9 million.

A public meeting was held by the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Services, known as DHEC, on Oct. 27.  Hospital officials were there to present their cases for why one hospital should be chosen to build their free-standing emergency facility over the other.

According Robert Yanity, a DHEC spokesman, the information presented at the forum was also taken from each hospital's application.  He said public speakers provided testimonials regarding the applicants and community need for emergency healthcare.

This is not a collaboration between hospitals.  DHEC will decide based on the need and case which hospital will receive the Certificate of Need to move forward with the expansion plans.  One or all of the three hospitals could get the go-ahead to build.  However, the certificate helps prevent duplicate services in the same area if unnecessary.  Yanity said a decision will be made in January 2017.

Jon Pangia is the medical director for the emergency department at Grand Strand Medical Center.  He said a free-standing emergency center is an emergency room with no hospital attached.  It's 'stand alone,' and some are affiliated with hospitals, while others are not.

Pangia explained why free-standing emergency centers are beneficial.  "So free-standing emergency departments across the country have proven to give quicker service, patients are happier when they go there and staff is happier when they work there.  One of the big reasons is we can get so many things done so much more quickly.  When somebody's really critical and they need something very specific, we need to get them out of there quickly, but we've also proven we can do that better than anywhere else," he said about Grand Strand Medical's current free-standing emergency centers scattered throughout the Grand Strand.

The purpose of the free-standing emergency center is to provide emergency care in an area currently lacking those services, without building an entire hospital.  For example, Pangia said a trauma victim can be transported to the free-standing emergency room, receive ER care and become stabilized, then be transported to the hospital for surgery instead of driving across town to receive critical care.

Pangia said instead of expanding the hospital with beds, building a separate center in a specific community will help people more.

All three hospitals agree Carolina Forest is in desperate need for emergency health care, and it will compliment the urgent cares in the area.

Pangia said Grand Strand Medical has been planning the center for more than a year.  Dick Tinsley is an administrator with McLeod Loris Seacoast Hospital.  Tinsley said McLeod has had Carolina Forest plans for two years.  He also said there is an incredible lack of physicians in the Carolina Forest and Horry County area.  He hopes that need will be filled.

For more information, please contact Eva C. Johnson, Certificate of Need Program, SC Department of Health and Environmental Control, 803-545-4316.

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