Georgetown Memorial Hospital plans major overhaul

Georgetown Memorial Hospital, which postponed plans a few years ago to build a new hospital off U.S. 701 because of the recession, said Tuesday that it has nixed those plans and it instead would renovate the existing hospital through a multi-year, multi-phase project that is likely to include a new patient tower in the coming years.

The 62-year-old hospital on Black River Road aims to upgrade to make it easier for patients to navigate its three floors, especially those looking for out-patient services, spokeswoman Ronda Wilson said. The $22 million work in the first phase also will spruce up the outside of the hospital, move the main entrance and replace the building’s aging necessities such as the heating and air conditioning system, she said.

“Undertaking a project of this scope will help ensure we have the kind of facility we need to continue delivery of quality healthcare service well into the future,” H. McRoy Skipper Jr., chairman of the Georgetown Hospital System’s board of trustees, said in a news release. “This is a reinvestment in our community and in our organization.”

The hospital announced its plans Tuesday to the 1,700 workers at Georgetown Memorial Hospital and Waccamaw Community Hospital, both owned by Georgetown Hospital System. All the other area hospitals also have upgraded or expanded in recent years.

At Georgetown Memorial Hospital, the first-phase work will overhaul the hospital’s second-floor nursing unit, move the main entrance from Black River Road to Memorial Lane, and shuffle the first-floor area with a new traffic pattern aiming to make it easier for patients, officials said.

The hospital’s exterior also will get a new surface, the building will get a new roof and the heating and cooling systems will be replaced. Patients aren’t expected to be moved to accommodate the work, Wilson said.

Georgetown Memorial has nixed plans to build a new hospital at the corner of U.S. 701 and Wedgefield Road, a plan it postponed a few years ago as the recession caused major layoffs in Georgetown County, and planned residential communities never were built, easing expected additional demand on the hospital. The hospital still owns the land but doesn’t have immediate plans for it, Wilson said.

When announcing its plan for a new hospital in 2006 , officials said the existing location wasn’t conducive for an expansion because it was surrounded by a cemetery, residential area, a busy street and didn’t have enough room for parking.

But now, overhauling the existing hospital is a better decision than starting from scratch, Wilson said. Crews can upgrade and replace where needed, but keep office space and other parts that are just fine, she said.

“If we were to build a new building, we would have to replace everything,” Wilson said. “This is the right thing at the right time.”

The age of the building is one reason the work is being done in phases, officials said, adding that some of the building’s basics needed to be upgraded first.

Work is starting immediately and should take about two years, Wilson said.

The board of trustees then will evaluate moving forward with a second phase, which could include a new patient tower on the existing campus that would include patient beds and operating rooms, officials said.