‘Why do we need another hospital?’: Some Carolina Forest residents not on board with proposed CMC facility

Published: Jul. 22, 2021 at 5:21 AM EDT
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HORRY COUNTY, S.C. (WMBF) - Features and timelines for a proposed hospital in Carolina Forest were the topics of discussion at a Carolina Forest Civic Association meeting Wednesday night.

Conway Medical Center Chief Financial Officer Brian Argo was at the meeting to talk about the health system with Carolina Forest residents.

“We are a small community hospital, about 210 beds,” said Argo. “We employ about 100 providers.”

Argo gave members of the Carolina Forest Civic Association a brief rundown of what the health system provides in Horry County.

His presentation focused on the facilities they have in the Carolina Forest community, and he didn’t leave out the future facility that’s been a hot topic for months.

“We have excess beds that are going underutilized that we have asked to use to the Carolina Forest community, and was granted the certificate of need by DHEC to do that,” said Argo.

Those 50 beds would go to a new hospital on International Drive. It would also include a delivery room and ICU.

Argo says one of the key attributes is it would be the first hospital in Horry County to be built with a pandemic in mind.

“Every room will have it’s own individual unit that will allow for isolation patients to be in those rooms in a very less likely manner of spreading any infectious disease,” said Argo.

Not every member of the civic association is sold on the idea.

“Driving past it, thinking, ‘McLeod is right down the street, why do we need another hospital?’ This is smaller. They don’t even have a helipad,” said one resident at the meeting.

Others were concerned with when the hospital may actually open.

Argo says a rough estimate could be four years from now, and part of that is because of appeals for the certificate of need.

“It’s being appealed. Everyone is appealing it, which means all the attorneys are going to sue everybody for it, right? It’s going to take probably two years for that to make it through the legal system, and then the build time is somewhere in the 2024 range,” said Argo. “You’re probably talking, before the first patient would ever be seen in that facility, probably four years from now give or take.”

The project still needs county council approval as well. It already passed two readings, but still needs a final vote on a third reading for the county to agree to rezone the land.

A county councilman who was at Wednesday’s meeting says the county is still waiting for word from the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources before it takes a final vote.

The third reading has been indefinitely delayed for about a month.

So in the meantime, Argo says CMC is expanding other services it can provide.

Coming out of the pandemic, the health system has added its first rheumatologist and infectious disease provider.

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