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Expansion foreshadows big year for MUSC Health

July 23, 2018
map showing new clinic locations
This map shows some of the sites where MUSC Health is expanding.

Two new TV commercials for MUSC feature only a brief glimpse of a white-coated doctor; instead, the commercials focus on the jam-packed days of both a working mom and a boy with a broken arm. Both are able to squeeze in a visit to the doctor, because their provider is in a clinic near where they live. The message: MUSC is where you are. 
Local expansion is just one part of a trifold growth plan, said Patrick Cawley, M.D., CEO of MUSC Health and vice president for health affairs for MUSC, as he shared an overview of what lies ahead for the health system. 
 
MUSC Health really consists of three components, he explained: the local Tri-county business, the regional business that falls within a two-hour radius and the state and national business. 
 
“We’re trying to grow in all three of those domains. We’re trying to bring MUSC services to as wide a group as we can,” he said. “We think we’ve got something special here, in terms of quality and patient focus, which we’re just going to keep trying to bring to as many people as we can.”

On a statewide level, MUSC is the sole provider within South Carolina of several services. It is the only transplant center in the state and the only pediatric cardiac surgery center. Additionally, MUSC Children’s Hospital was recently named No. 11 in the nation for cardiology and heart surgery by U.S. News & World Report. Cawley said the center served patients from 48 states last year. 
 
Regionally, MUSC Health works with partners like Tidelands Health in Georgetown, Horry and Williamsburg counties; Regional Medical Center in Orangeburg; and Beaufort Memorial Hospital in Beaufort County to offer specialty services to South Carolinians in these areas. 
 
Regional Medical Center, with about 100 physicians, is able to augment its services by partnering with MUSC for its cancer care and stroke care services. Likewise, MUSC offers specialties like thoracic surgery and nephrology in Beaufort and Bluffton. Earlier this year, MUSC and Beaufort Memorial announced plans to open a micro hospital together in fast growing Bluffton. 
 
MUSC has a significant presence both on the peninsula and throughout the Tri-county area, providing the type of local medical care that, were it not here, another hospital might step in to provide. 
 
In the early-2000s, MUSC was at a crossroads, and leaders considered whether the peninsula was the place to be. After robust discussion, it was decided the peninsula would remain home to the main hospital and those acute care patients who needed MUSC’s multidisciplinary teams. Ambulatory care, however, was to start moving off the peninsula, closer to where people live. 
 
“That’s accelerated in the last five years,” Cawley said, adding that with Charleston’s tremendous growth and people’s frustration with parking and traffic, this is a logical development. Consequently, he said, 2019 will be a big year for MUSC Health. 
 
In the first quarter of the coming year, a pediatric ambulatory facility will open in North Charleston. The 100,000-square-foot facility at Rivers Avenue and Mall Drive will include a pediatric outpatient surgical facility and a pediatric multispecialty medical office building that will include an urgent care clinic, imaging facility and infusion rooms.
 
Next summer, an ambulatory surgery unit will open in Mount Pleasant on Coleman Boulevard.
 
MUSC Health East Cooper already offers primary care, specialty care, radiology and more. This local center also functions as something of a regional center as patients from Georgetown find it easier to access than peninsular MUSC, Cawley said. He added that the only service not offered in Mount Pleasant currently is ambulatory surgery, and that will soon change within the next 18 months. 
 
Finally, in the fall of 2019 the Citadel Mall space will open. 
 
The mall plan came together with a bit of fortuitous timing, Cawley said. A few years ago, MUSC leadership determined it needed a larger ambulatory presence in West Ashley. At first, MUSC Health planned to build its own facility near West Ashley High School off Glenn McConnell Parkway, but the mall developer came to MUSC with an idea for MUSC to be part of the revitalization of the mall. 
 
The mall plan had several advantages over the parkway plan, Cawley said. First and foremost — parking.
 
The former J.C. Penney store within the mall also offered more space and better highway access. Once opened, the site will offer ambulatory surgery, procedure rooms, radiology, labs, urgent care and doctor’s offices.  “Just about anything you would need as an outpatient,” Cawley said. 
 
Longer term, MUSC plans to build a 128-bed hospital in the Nexton development near Summerville in Berkeley County. That project remains under review in the certificate of need process through the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control, according to DHEC’s June 2018 report. 
 
As Cawley considers MUSC’s plans, he also keeps an eye on the national landscape. He expects to see a continuation of the consolidation trend among health systems. It wouldn’t be crazy to think the U.S. could go from 6,000 independent hospitals to several hundred health systems, each with multiple hospitals, he said. 
 
“We think MUSC Health system will grow as well. We expect to be a health system that’s leading care. We don’t expect to be consolidated by somebody else,” he said. 
 
As MUSC grows it will continue to focus on quality, he said. A focus on restructuring the health system two years ago was primarily to ensure that as the system grows, it doesn’t outstrip its resources, Cawley said.

About the Author

Leslie Cantu

Keywords: MUSC Leadership