St. Joseph’s/Candler plans to open a four-acre medical campus in Bluffton, S.C.
The medical system, along with the town of Bluffton, announced an agreement Monday for the development at Buckwalter Place.
St. Joseph’s/Candler currently provides services at locations scattered throughout the South Carolina Lowcountry. The addition of a centralized campus in the heart of Bluffton will help consolidate medical care in the area, said Paul Hinchey, president and CEO of St. Joseph’s/Candler.
“We have a primary care practice and imaging center and also a place where specialists can rotate in over at Belfair. We have a wound care center and a hyperbaric center at Moss Creek. Then we decided to bring out a medical management center and now we have that immediate care center (at Buckwalter Place),” Hinchey said.
“It’s time to consolidate all the services that we have in all those eight or nine locations that we’ve outgrown, frankly.”
Hinchey said the St. Joseph’s/Candler Medical Campus across from Publix in Bluffton will feature 40,000 square feet of medical office space and cost about $22 million over a six-year construction period beginning late in 2019.
“The first phase is the most imminent thing that we’re going to do,” he said. “It will be 15,000 square feet.”
Hinchey said the campus’ first phase, planned for 2019 to 2023, will increase the number of St. Joseph’s/Candler primary care physicians in the area from three to six.
“We’re also going to have a large cadre of space for specialist physicians to rotate out into Bluffton so you can get your pre-op care or your post-op care closer to home,” he said.
The first phase also will add medical oncology, brachytherapy, GYN oncology, radiation oncology and an open MRI unit, expand cardiology services and “put a new linear accelerator on this side of the river,” Hinchey said.
“We’re looking at (beginning in) late 2019 with state approval. It’s a very complicated project to build the box that houses the linear accelerator,” Hinchey said of the device used in cancer treatment.
When the project is finished, the facility will employ 63 people — 25 of them new employees — with an estimated annual payroll of $6.6 million.
“You can imagine there’s going to be fairly significant incremental job growth,” Hinchey said. “These are all knowledge-based jobs that will be a real economic driver for this community.”
Hinchey said St. Joseph’s/Candler also plans to become a “major player” in affordable housing in Bluffton.
“We run about 150 affordable housing units and we have a leading-edge partnership with the city of Savannah where we provide down payment for homes and closing costs for first-time homeowners,” Hinchey said.
“And then over a period of time, those closing costs are usually forgiven. So we are interested in getting more involved with the off-street development project and making affordable housing more prevalent to Bluffton.”
Mayor Lisa Sulka said the medical campus has been in the works for more than a decade. The project “hit all the checkboxes: economic development, affordable housing and keeping quality of life,” she said.
“In 2004, when Mayor (Hank) Johnston had the vision to create this park, it was going great and then we had a little thing called the recession. When we look at the light at the end of the tunnel, maybe that was a good thing for this,” Sulka said.
St. Joseph’s/Candler currently offers the following services in the Lowcountry: primary care doctors, specialty doctors, radiation oncology, medical oncology, imaging, urgent care, medication management and wound care.
New and expanded services at the new campus will include oncology treatment planning and management, oncology radiation treatment, oncology pharmacy services, open MRI, screening colonoscopies, interventional pain management, a breast surgery clinic, new gynecologic oncology hours, new OB/GYN hours, expanded vascular and neurology specialty office hours, and physical therapy.