St. Joseph’s/Candler officials Thursday announced plans to build a “micro hospital” in Pooler to better serve patients from westside Savannah and outlying areas as they expand their regional appeal.
Phase one of a $62 million Pooler campus is scheduled to open in early 2019 on an 18-acre parcel on Pooler Parkway near the intersection with Interstate 16. That’s the first step in a 10-year build-out to create a 170,000-square-foot, multi-story, technologically advanced medical facility, said Paul P. Hinchey, president/CEO.
“St. Joseph’s/Candler is a true regional health system, and it is important that we place our resources where are patients are,” Hinchey said. “We recognize that they are busy and we didn’t want to let a lack of access stop them from taking care of their health care needs.
“This location is a perfect spot not only for the people of Pooler, but those in Statesboro, Richmond Hill, Hardeeville and farther out who need to come to get crucial medical services, but don’t want to drive into Savannah.”
The site will house offices for specialty and primary care services.
Pooler Mayor Mike Lamb said Wednesday the St. Joseph’s/Candler Pooler Campus is the type of expansion of services he has sought since he became mayor in 2004.
“We constantly are looking for more and more medical facilities and doctors because it helps our citizens not to have to travel all the way to Savannah,” Lamb said. “Any steps that will help our citizens has got to be a big plus for our community.”
He said he and Hinchey have discussed some type of expansion for “quite some time,” adding that Thursday’s announcement makes those discussion finally a reality.
Pooler offices have been working in advance of the announcement to adjust language in its zoning ordinance to provide for a medical center in a heavy commercial, or C-2, district.
On Monday, the Pooler City Council held a first reading of an ordinance amendment that would define medical centers and add them to the list of permitted uses in heavy commercial zones. The council will have to hold a second reading on the change for it to go into effect.
Hinchey said the “micro hospital” system will address the changing face of hospital care and position the campus to adapt to changes well into the future.
“These facilities are the future of health care,” Hinchey said. “We have designed the Pooler campus so we can easily adapt to any changes in the health care industry that come in the next 25 years.”
Phase one will be about 61,000 square feet and cost $21 million.
The campus will fill a significant community gap in the rapidly developing Pooler area where many of the housing subdivisions are completely built out and others are filling up, Hinchey said.
The location will serve populations of Pooler and west Chatham County as well as Effingham, Bryan, and Liberty counties in coastal Georgia and Jasper County and Bluffton in South Carolina.
St. Joseph’s/Candler has been building a significant regional footprint, now with 87 provider locations spanning 33 counties in southeastern Georgia and South Carolina’s Lowcountry with a presence on Hilton Head..
The Pooler campus is a key strategy to better serve patients who rely on their regional hospitals, Hinchey said.
What is a “micro hospital”?
Over the past few years the health care industry has shifted dramatically from traditional in-patient services that involve longer hospital stays to more out-patient services such as day surgery, imaging or non-invasive procedures that involve little or no time spent in the hospital for recovery, Hinchey said.
Micro hospitals address that shift and treat less serious patients in locations near where they live, he said.
The new campus addresses those needs, making services convenient for patients who are visiting primary care and specialty doctors on the campus and don’t have to drive to Savannah for important procedures, labs or imaging.
The Pooler announcement comes a month after Hinchey opened the first phase of a $21.6 million expansion of St. Joseph’s Hospital designed in large part to address what he called an expanding regional market.
That focused on an expanded emergency department and upgrades to the outpatient surgery and imaging departments and ambulance entrance.
It will be followed by a renovation of the former emergency department
“This is a major investment in the biggest building on Savannah’s southside,” Hinchey said. “It is strategically located for the growing population in all counties surrounding Savannah, so this expansion is a keystone for our overall strategic plan to deliver easy access to high-quality health care for the entire region.”
He said the new era of expansion and improved patient services at the hospital would redefine health care for the region with a focus on patient comfort on Savannah’s southside.