Two area hospitals will soon begin building emergency departments in Carolina Forest.
After more than a year and a half of legal wrangling, Grand Strand Medical Center and McLeod Loris Seacoast Hospital have agreed to end a court fight over state officials’ decision to approve each hospital’s plans for a freestanding emergency center in The Forest, according to a court order filed this week. Conway Medical Center, which saw its application for a Carolina Forest emergency center rejected by the state, had appealed the state’s decision, but CMC saw its case dismissed last month.
“The remaining Parties’ decision to dismiss the above captioned consolidated contested cases will enable them to accelerate and enhance the provision of emergency department services in the Carolina Forest and surrounding areas, unimpeded by further litigation,” the order from Administrative Law Judge Deborah Brooks Durden said.
Filed Tuesday, Durden's order cleared the way for the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) to issue certificates of need to Grand Strand and McLeod. That approval is needed for the hospitals to move forward with their construction plans.
DHEC spokesman Tommy Crosby said via email that state officials issued McLeod's certificate on Wednesday and planned to issue Grand Strand's on Thursday. Each provider will now submit an application to DHEC to add an emergency facility to its hospital license.
Conway Medical Center not only challenged the state’s rejection of its proposal, but also the decision to support the plans of Grand Strand and McLeod. Grand Strand and McLeod sought to overturn the state’s decision in each other’s project. These types of legal disputes among hospitals are not unusual.
DHEC records indicate state officials did not see the three hospitals’ proposals as competing and they found Grand Strand and McLeod showed a need for additional medical services in the growing Carolina Forest community.
Between 2000 and 2010, Carolina Forest grew by more than 500 percent, surging to over 21,000 residents, according to U.S. Census records. The community's population is projected to exceed 50,000 by 2030, according to the Horry County Planning and Zoning Department.
Grand Strand plans to construct an $8.9 million facility at the intersection of Carolina Forest Boulevard, Wiregrass Road and Oakheart Road.
"As the emergency provider of choice serving more than 100,000 patients in our ERs last year, we are excited to bring our caring and experienced team to this growing part of our community," said Dr. Radley Short, emergency room medical director for Grand Strand Health, in a prepared statement. "We expect to open in 2019."
McLeod’s proposal calls for the construction of a $9.6 million project on International Drive. The emergency department will be part of the 43-acre medical complex McLeod is developing there. That property will eventually hold seven buildings.
McLeod spokeswoman Jennifer Hulon said her hospital wanted to wait until it had received the official communication from DHEC before commenting on the project's status.
CMC proposed building a $9.3 million facility off Surgeons Drive and Carolina Forest Boulevard. However, DHEC had already approved an expansion of the emergency department at the main hospital in Conway and state officials determined that project would meet the need highlighted in the hospital’s Carolina Forest application.