Allen Carroll knows how long Berkeley County has waited for its own hospital: too long.
That time frame includes a lengthy court battle that further delayed a county hospital by seven years and eight days. Yes, he counted the days.
Carroll is the regional CEO of Roper St. Francis Healthcare, which has plans to build a full-service hospital at Carnes Crossroads, near 17-A and 176. It’s called Roper St. Francis Berkeley Hospital and there is still a wait ahead for residents seeking closer-to-home medical care.
The court battle that stalled the hospital for years just ended a few months ago, and now design for the hospital begins this month. The design process is estimated to take about a year. Construction could take about two years, Carroll said.
The trouble brewed between Trident Healthcare and Roper St. Francis Healthcare, which both sought to build hospitals in Berkeley County. Trident secured a certificate-of-need from S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control (essentially saying the population could support its hospital) for a Moncks Corner hospital. Roper announced in 2008 a hospital at Carnes Crossroads, near Goose Creek. Trident then sued to block Roper from opening its own hospital on the grounds that the population could not support both hospitals.
The Trident Moncks Corner hospital and the Roper Carnes Crossroads hospital will have 50 beds each and both are full-service. Trident also has a medical hospital in North Charleston, just outside of Goose Creek, and Roper has an emergency room and physician offices in Moncks Corner.
The legal tango was dragged into the S.C. Supreme Court. In December, the highest court in the state said Berkeley County’s population could support two hospitals and ended the struggle.
The decision affirmed everything Carroll and the Roper team had been fighting for.
The design process begins this month, according to Roper St. Francis Berkeley CEO Scott Broome.
Instead of creating cookie-cutter hospitals, Roper strives to make each hospital unique to the community, which can take a while, Carroll said.
“We believe the hospital we’re going to build will have themes that resonate across all of our platforms but there are going to be some uniquenesses to Berkeley County that we’re going to want to tease out and make unique to that hospital,” Carroll said. He called it “contextualization.”
“We want to take the context of Berkeley County and build the hospital in a way that’s in keeping with that context … We will look for cultural themes, We will look for environmental themes and themes of that nature, but the purpose of, all that’s nice but why, right? The reason that we do that is that we actually believe and there are data that support this that outcomes are better when patients go to a facility where they feel at home and comfortable so we want people to go into that facility and feel that facility fits their community.”
Carroll called the campus a “30-year campus,” which means there are plans to build and add onto the 90-acre site to meet community needs. For perspective, the entire West Ashley Bon Secours St. Francis site could fit into just one of three zones on the site, which has 63 developable acres. Bon Secours has 200 beds.
“Thirty years from now, (Roper St. Francis Berkeley is) going to be a hub of clinical care for Berkeley County,” Carroll said.
Now, Roper is holding town halls with various civic and citizen groups to gain feedback on what people want to see in the Carnes Crossroads hospital. Those town halls will continue for as long as people want, Carroll said. There are more scheduled through the summer, he said.
It all goes back to creating a hospital unique to Berkeley County. Broome said:
“I want them to feel like this is their hospital, we want to have green space so we can have community events there, and maybe it’s the bluegrass band on the lawn or maybe it’s the string quartet, it just depends on what people feel like. It really has to become viewed as not somewhere where you go when you’re ill but it’s somewhere you go to sustain health.”
At the town halls, the top staff at Roper hears many of the same themes.
“One of the things you hear from the community a lot is it’s been a couple of generations since babies were able to be born in Berkeley county and with the opening of our hospital there we will be able to have a maternity presence and have babies born in Berkeley county,” Broome said. Since less than 2 percent of babies are born out of the hospital in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control, that statement appears to hold true.
Another thing they hear at the town halls: open soon.
“(They’re) just super excited, glad they now have healthcare closer to home, glad they now have an option for clinical care provider, ‘Wish you could get here quicker, can you speed this up’ that kind of American impatience,” Carroll said.
Here are some of the Roper St. Francis Berkeley hospital’s upcoming town halls:
• March 28: Goose Creek Lions Club
• March 30: Summerville Rotary Club
• April 18: Summerville Evening Rotary Club
• May 17: North Area Top 40 Producers
• May 19: Moncks Corner Lions Club
More town halls are expected to be scheduled.