Myrtle Beach-area hospitals expanding to keep up with demand

dbryant@thesunnews.comDecember 1, 2012 

— Grand Strand hospitals continue to expand their facilities, open new primary care offices and add specialized services to keep up with the growing demand for health care.

Little River Medical Center and Brunswick Novant Medical Center have opened new medical offices, Grand Strand Regional Medical Center is adding new specialized services, Waccamaw Community Hospital is expanding its surgery center and Georgetown Memorial Hospital is overhauling and renovating.

“All the hospitals seem to be growing,” said Joan Carroza, spokeswoman for Grand Strand Regional Medical Center, which also has applied with the state to add more beds. “We’ve stayed very, very busy this year.”

Some of the increased demand on hospital services comes as a result of Horry County’s population growth, officials said. The county’s population grew 2.6 percent from 2010 to 2011 to hit about 276,340 residents, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. The number of residents ages 65 and older -- and more likely in need of health care -- grew 17.7 percent.

Little River Medical Center, which is putting the finishing touches on its expanded and renovated hospital, is moving into high-demand areas with a new medical center on the south end and plans to open its first office in Carolina Forest next year, spokeswoman Celeste Bondurant-Bell said.

The center, which has offices in Little River, Loris and Myrtle Beach, expanded to the south Strand last month with a 6,700-square-foot office at 3236 Holmestown Road, where it provides primary care, pediatrics, some basic lab work and behavioral health services. The office is open 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. Georgetown Memorial Hospital owns land off Holmestown Road where it planned before the recession to build a medical office, but now the hospital doesn’t have a timetable for building there.

“We now have the county well covered,” Bondurant-Bell said. “There is such a need all over the county.”

Carolina Forest is next for Little River Medical Center, with the hospital system buying land in the area for a medical and dental office. Construction is expected to start early next year, with the office opening by the end of 2013, Bondurant-Bell said.

Little River Medical Center also has bought a second vehicle to provide mobile dental services at area schools and is preparing for a rush of new primary care patients expected with the nation’s health care overhaul that requires insurance coverage.

“That is going to have a huge impact on health care,” Bondurant-Bell said.

In Brunswick County, N.C., Brunswick Novant Medical Center -- which opened its new hospital last year -- also has added a new medical office. The 10,000-square-foot office, on the hospital’s campus at 584 Hospital Drive in Bolivia, houses Brunswick Surgical Associates and Brunswick Women’s Center and will be adding several physician offices by the end of next year. The surgical associates’ office and women’s center, both in Supply, closed last month when they moved into the new office in Bolivia.

Grand Strand Regional Medical Center, which opened a heart center last year and expanded its emergency room, is renovating to create an eight-bed pediatric unit in Myrtle Beach and opening a wound care center in March at its South Strand Medical Center, Carroza said.

Patients are likely to continue to see more health care options as the industry aims to keep up with demand.

“There’s a huge need,” Bondurant-Bell said. “There’s an ongoing need.”

Contact DAWN BRYANT at 626-0296 or at dbryant@thesunnews.com or follow her at Twitter.com/TSN_dawnbryant.

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