Hospital expands Bluffton offices

Health care facilities are addressing growth in Southern Beaufort County

Health care facilities are addressing growth in Southern Beaufort CountyAfter 11 successful years as a physician in his home state of Indiana, Dr. Stephen Luther gave up a prestigious hospital post to start a primary care practice at the newly opened Beaufort Memorial Bluffton Medical Services.

For the first 12 months, the board-certified doctor worked out of a small office and one exam room. Today, he’s seeing patients in a new medical suite that is part of a major expansion of the Bluffton center.

The 8,000-square-foot addition, which was completed earlier this year, provided enough space for a rehabilitation center for physical, occupational and speech therapy, a large waiting room and a dozen exam rooms. Luther and his staff share their new digs with the staff of Beaufort OB/GYN Associates.

Additionally, the original office space was redesigned and renovated, creating rooms dedicated solely to diagnostic imaging. Prior to the expansion, patients had to drive to Beaufort for ultrasounds and mammograms.

“It was a leap of faith,” said Luther, who is the former director of Internal and Perioperative Medicine at Kendrick Memorial Hospital/St. Francis Hospital in Indiana. “I came from a cutting-edge program ranked among the top 5 percent in the country for joint replacement surgery to start a practice from scratch.”

Within months of hanging his shingle at the hospital’s Westbury Park outpatient facility, Luther had outgrown his modest accommodations. His schedule is so full that new patients have to wait several months to book a visit.

“Integrating with Beaufort Memorial has been fantastic,” said Luther, an internist specializing in adult patients. “I strongly believe in their values and overall mission. They’re in it for the health of the community.”

Beaufort Memorial Hospital, which is the only nonprofit medical center between Savannah and Charleston, is affiliated with Duke University Health System for heart and cancer care. It ranks among the top 10 percent in the nation for general, orthopedic and spinal surgery.

In 2006, the hospital opened the Bluffton satellite facility to better serve residents living south of the Broad River. More than a dozen Beaufort Memorial physicians, specializing in general, orthopaedic and vascular surgery, neurology, pediatrics, obstetrics and gynecology joined the center’s “Med Share” program, allowing them to schedule visits with local patients in Bluffton rather than in Beaufort.

Like Luther, many have seen a dramatic increase in patients from south of the Broad. “It didn’t take long before we had more doctors than space,” said Laurie Martin, senior director of Bluffton Medical Services.

Besides exam rooms, the physicians requested the addition of diagnostic technology to supplement the available X-ray and EKG equipment. Topping the list was mammography screening. The original facility occupied 4,000 square feet across the hall from the Wachovia Bank branch on U.S. 278 and Buck Island Road.

With no more room on the first floor, the hospital decided to lease the upstairs portion of the building, tripling the size of the outpatient center.

Changes also were made in the first floor offices to accommodate mammography screening, a bone density scanner and ultrasound testing, as well as a full-service lab.

The hospital’s sophisticated technology allows participating physicians to view test results off-site via computer.

“As a not-for-profit hospital, all our excess revenue is invested in the hospital and the com- munity to improve programs and services,” said BMH President and CEO Rick Toomey.

Among its most significant investments is the 25,000-square-foot Keyserling Cancer Center. The Port Royal cancer treatment facility opened in April 2006 in affiliation with Duke University Health System.

It features some of the most advanced technology on the market, including a $2.7 million radiotherapy system that allows oncologists to treat patients with pinpoint accuracy. “We will continue to add services as we go,” Toomey said. “We expect a significant growth in comprehensive care over the next 12 months.”

Following are some recent hospital expansions in Southern Beaufort County:

Hilton Head Hospital/Coastal Carolina Medical Center
Bluffton-Okatie Outpatient Center, 40 Okatie Center Blvd., Okatie: Offers primary and urgent care, physical therapy, imaging and lab services, cardiac rehabilitation, outpatient surgery. Call 843-705-8800 or visit www.hiltonheadregional.com.

Beaufort Memorial Hospital
Bluffton Medical Services, 11 Arley Way, Westbury Park: Offers diagnostic imaging, full-service lab, rehabilitation center. Contact: 843-706-8660 or visit www.bmhsc.org.

St. Joseph’s/Candler
St. Joseph’s/Candler Medical Group, 10 Oak Forest Road, Suite C and D, Bluffton: Offers physical therapy, primary care and office hours for a number of hospital specialists, including orthopaedics, cardiology, gastroenterology, gynecology and pediatric allergy and immunology. Call 843-815-3006 or visit www.sjchs.org.

Memorial University Medical Center
Memorial Health University Physicians, 7 Mallet Way, Sheridan Park, Bluffton: Features the offices of internist Dr. John Burling (843-815-5066) and three physicians from the Curtis & Elizabeth Anderson Cancer Institute (843-836–7878). Visit www.memorialhealth.com for more information.

Medical University of South Carolina
MUSC Neurosurgery, Legacy Medical Center, 8 Okatie Center Blvd., Suite 101, Okatie: Offers a full range of neurosurgical treatments for brain and spinal disorders. Call 843-792-1414 or visit www.MUSChealth.com.