McLeod Health will open its long-planned emergency department in Carolina Forest next week.
Although the 13,000-square-foot facility won’t begin serving the public until 7 a.m. Tuesday, McLeod officials held a celebration at their International Drive complex Thursday afternoon.
“This brings the highest level of expertise that McLeod Health represents right here to Carolina Forest,” said Dr. Ross Taylor, chief medical officer for McLeod Health Loris Seacoast. “We’re very proud of that. … This is a needed resource for this community.”
The opening of the $9.6 million emergency department marks the completion of the first two buildings in what McLeod plans to be a seven-facility, 43-acre campus (the emergency department is in Building 1).
McLeod expects to announce construction plans for its third Carolina Forest building in four to six weeks, said Monica Vehige, administrator of McLeod Seacoast.
“Our goal with Carolina Forest has always been to develop it based on what the community needs are,” she said. “So we’re constantly evaluating what is needed in the community to see how we can respond from a health care standpoint. I think that’s responsible health care, but it’s also based on community need.”
For McLeod, constructing the emergency department has been years in the making.
After more than a year and a half of legal wrangling, in 2018 McLeod and Grand Strand Medical Center agreed to end a court fight over state officials’ decision to approve each hospital’s plans for an emergency center in The Forest.
Conway Medical Center also applied to build an emergency center in the area, but CMC saw its application for a Carolina Forest facility rejected by the state. CMC appealed the state’s decision, but that case was dismissed last year.
Grand Strand has proposed building its $8.9 million center at the intersection of Wiregrass and Oakheart roads in the Forest Square shopping center. The provider hasn’t broken ground on the project yet, but plans have been filed with Horry County Government.
For now, though, McLeod's new center is the lone emergency department in The Forest. The facility includes 15 exam rooms and trauma facilities. Radiology and lab services are housed there as well.
Despite the delays — and the debate over how many emergency departments the community needs — Vehige said it will be good for patients to have multiple care options.
“McLeod’s philosophy on that is competition makes us all better,” she said. “So if there’s enough of a need, it keeps everyone on their toes. And who wins the best is the patient.”