By Theresa Stratford for The Island Connection
It was October 2019 when the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) first proposed a Certificate of Need application with the state of South Carolina for a Sea Islands emergency department (ED) to be located at 1884 Seabrook Island Road on Johns Island. Now, almost three years later, the project is moving forward with the support of the local Johns Island, Seabrook Island and Kiawah Island communities. Trajectory design completion has been set for the fall of 2021. Plans project an August 2022 construction start date with completion and opening set for the fall of 2023. Mayor John D. Labriola expressed in the Town Council meeting held on July 6 that this project is long overdue and gravely needed for the local community. “This is a big deal. It will be quite a service. I know many people who feel much more secure about living here knowing that we will have an ER just down the street,” he recognized. Mayor Labriola said that MUSC has held around four presentations in recent months about the new ED plans. Slides from the presentations explained why an ED has been recognized as a need from MUSC. In the presentation, it was revealed that “every year life is lost or significantly compromised as a result of medical assistance not being readily available in the Sea Islands.” And, “Kiawah and Seabrook property owners with medical issues continue to leave the community to be closer to medical services in the event of an emergency.” It was also presented that “double digit population growth is anticipated over the next five years.” The presentation noted that by 2024, there are an estimated 31,000 additional 65-and-older residents projected to be living in the area. Not only that, but there is also the tourism factor as well. Many visitors may not have the local awareness to navigate health services in the Sea Islands, especially in an emergency. The Sea Islands communities are located about 20 miles to the nearest hospital, and there are no emergent health care options in the area. The presentation noted that total trauma transports to MUSC have increased by 76% for Sea Island residents from 2016 to 2019. Emergency department visits are on the rise as well. For adult Sea Islands residents resulting in inpatient admission, emergency department visits increased by 16.6% from 2016 to 2019, and the volume of emergency department visits for chronic diseases for Sea Islands residents increased by 13.4% from 2016-19. The facility will be 22,740 square feet and will be located between Freshfields Village and Bohicket Marina on Seabrook Island Road. The free standing ED will have four exam rooms, two trauma rooms, a fast-track triage, full CT scan and radiology services, a helipad, and full lab services with quick results, along with direct admission to hospital beds.
The medical office building will house primary care, specialty care, telehealth pods, an onsite lab and diagnostic treatment and physical therapy and occupational therapy treatment rooms. “This will be full-service,” Labriola added.
“The inter-hospital capabilities are a huge component.” Another key component of this project is philanthropic support. MUSC presented that “support is crucial to the successful startup and long-term sustainability of the Sea Islands Medical Facility.” They presented a number of “naming” opportunities that the community can donate to. Some of those include: the garden area, helipad, imaging suite, lobby, conference room, staff break room and many more. Of the almost $25 million that this project will cost, MUSC hopes to raise about $12 million in donations. However, the mayor reported that this project is not dependent on philanthropy and that plans to proceed with the project will advance regardless.
For more information on making a donation to the MUSC Health – Sea Islands Project, email Brian Panique at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information, visit muschealth.org/patients-visitors/ about-us/growth/new-locations/sea-islands.