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Most Grand Strand hospitals' expansions to be completed by 2011

Despite the economic downturn, area hospitals are continuing with plans for expansion, while more patients without health insurance will likely come through the doors.

Nearly all hospitals along the Grand Strand are expanding or renovating.

Grand Strand Regional Medical Center expects to break ground before the end of the year on a 50-bed expansion, and construction will continue through 2011, hospital spokeswoman Joan Carroza said.

Loris Community Hospital and Seacoast Medical Center also are expanding, with construction under way, spokeswoman Celeste Bondurant-Bell said. Seacoast is adding 50 beds, and Loris is adding 35,800 square feet that will include a new emergency department, intensive care unit and pharmacy.

Both are expected to be completed in 2011.

Georgetown Memorial Hospital has asked the state to approve a replacement facility, though the construction process has not yet begun, hospital spokeswoman Ronda Wilson said.

In Brunswick County, N.C., Novant Health is building a new 74-bed hospital at Brunswick Community Hospital. It is expected to be completed in early 2011.

As for consumers, the rising unemployment rate has left more folks without health insurance, a trend that is likely to continue this year.

"We will still treat them, but it is a challenge to our budget," Carroza said.