Local hospital may get $1 million from Myrtle Beach

One of the expansions already under way at Grand Strand Medical Center’s campus on 82nd Parkway in Myrtle Beach.
One of the expansions already under way at Grand Strand Medical Center’s campus on 82nd Parkway in Myrtle Beach. cjohnson@thesunnews.com

Grand Strand Medical Center could gain almost $1 million in incentives from Myrtle Beach for four projects to expand its campus on 82nd Parkway.

Myrtle Beach City Council gave initial approval to the incentives on Tuesday, with Councilmen Mike Lowder, Phil Render, Mike Chestnut and Councilwoman Mary Jeffcoat in support. Councilmen Randal Wallace and Wayne Gray voted against the incentives, and Mayor John Rhodes, who serves on the medical center’s board of trustees, left the room for city council’s discussion and vote.

But some questions remain as to whether the medical campus would have expanded without the $970,000, which the company can use towards costs like permit fees, city business license fees and utility bills for the next five years.

HCA Healthcare Inc., the parent company of Grand Strand Health, owned 170 hospitals and had roughly 44,000 treatment beds across the country as of the end of 2016. It recently reported $659 million in net income for the first quarter of 2017.

“I’m a little torn here,” Councilman Wayne Gray said. “Relative to your size as a corporation and the decision of how it deploys its resources — both capital and personnel — I’m just uncomfortable that we would then grant a voucher of $1 million.”

The medical center has completed the structure for one of the projects it presented to council Tuesday, and Sims said the incentive money would go towards outfitting that new floor. And construction has begun on another, housing for a linear accelerator, which has already been funded by Grand Strand Medical Center’s board, Sims said.

But he declined to tell The Sun News after presenting to city council if not receiving the incentives would be a deal breaker for the medical center’s projects.

“I think it’s hard to say, as I alluded to,” he said.

The projects together are expected to bring about 150 full-time jobs, Sims said, and cost a total of $50 million.

Chestnut said of the incentives, “I just think it’s a win-win if we are talking about trying to diversify the job economy here in Horry County.”

Councilwoman Mary Jeffcoat said the incentives made sense, because it’s important to help existing employers expand. Local jurisdictions already fund groups like the Myrtle Beach Regional Economic Development Corp. to attract new business, she said, but that investment doesn’t ensure that a new company will come.

“If you incentivize one company, hopefully it will encourage other companies to do the same thing,” Jeffcoat said.

The medical center brought four different projects before city council as it discussed the rebates:

  • An expansion of its residency program, which will cost a total of $1.5 million. Completion is expected in July.
  • A new office building, costing $20 million, for physicians that work inside the hospital. Construction is expected to stretch from December 2017 to December 2018.
  • A linear accelerator at Grand Strand Hospital, costing $14 million. The machine is used in cancer treatments to target radiation to specific parts of the body. Construction to house the unit has already been funded by HCA and is expected to last from May 2017 to January 2018.
  • A new 24-bed inpatient rehab floor in the south tower of the 82nd Parkway campus for patients recovering after serious surgery or other treatments for physical trauma. The shell of the floor has already been completed, Sims said. Outfitting the floor is projected to cost $13 million and stretch from August 2017 to April 2018.

City council would have to approve the $970,000 once more before it goes into effect.

Grand Strand Health facilities already employ roughly 1,700 people in the region, Sims said, and its emergency room on 82nd was recently designated the first Level 1 trauma center in the region. He said the area remains an attractive place for a healthcare company because of the demographics of its permanent population and the millions of tourists that visit each year.

“There’s a lot of activity here that warrants having a hospital,” Sims said.

“Those moped [riders] visit us every day.”

Chloe Johnson: 843-626-0381, @_ChloeAJ