MYRTLE BEACH — McLeod Health announced a new hospital coming to the rapidly growing Carolina Forest area.
“We have filed a Certificate of Need with the State, as required, demonstrating the need for a hospital in this location,” said Monica Vehige, administrator at McLeod Health, in a press release issued Tuesday.
For more than a decade, Carolina Forest has been among the fastest-growing communities in Horry County.
McLeod, which also has locations in Little River and Loris, plans to build a four-story, $56 million hospital with 48 beds near its current outpatient buildings at International Drive and S.C. 31. The plans are pending approval from the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control. Pending the approval, the hospital plans to open in Fall 2023.
In fact, DHEC calculates that there will be a need of 155 additional hospital beds by 2024, according to its 2020 South Carolina Health Plan. The plan shows Horry County had a population of 344,147 in 2018 and it is projected to grow to 423,880 by 2024.
Population growth is expected by 5,000 for those under 18, more than 30,000 for those 18-64, and nearly 44,000 for those 65 and older, according to the report.
“The current and projected population of Horry County, as well as the seasonal spikes we experience due to tourism is a major influence on the growing demand for healthcare services in our county,” Vehige said. “Additionally, our current COVID-19 pandemic response demonstrated the insufficient hospital bed capacity in Horry County. Even without a pandemic, this shortage will become even more apparent.”
Horry County Councilman Dennis DiSabato said the community has grown astronomically in the last 20 years.
“As the entire county grows, there’s going to be more need for access to hospitals and things like that,” DiSabato said. “It just makes sense for a community of that size to have its own hospital. I think it’s going to make the residents of Carolina Forest happy that, in the event of an emergency, they have somewhere that they can go quickly. I think it was necessary. I think the community is going to be pleased with it.”
Sign up for weekly roundups of our top stories, news and culture from the Myrtle Beach area. This newsletter is hand-curated by a member of our Myrtle Beach news staff.
In recent years, Horry County completed International Drive that extended the road from S.C. 31 to S.C. 90. Many who live along S.C. 90 claimed the importance of completing the road, which faced years of delays due to protests by environmentalists, centered around the safety of residents in that area.
A trip from the intersection of S.C. 90 and S.C. 31 to the new McLeod hospital would be about two miles shorter than a trip to the closest hospital, which is Conway Medical Center. Emergency crews would also avoid the often congested U.S. 501 by bringing patients to the new hospital.
“The goal of this new hospital in Carolina Forest is to create easy access to quality healthcare,” Vihage told The Post and Courier. “International Drive serves as a local thoroughfare for residents who live along SC 90 to reach our McLeod Health Carolina Forest campus quickly and conveniently.”
“I think that 90 corridor is actually served better by this McLeod Hospital, and even the Carolina Forest residents are, to a certain extent,” DiSabato said. “Certainly it’s going to be easier for Carolina Forest residents to go to that McLeod Hospital if they need to.”
Felicia Soto is a resident along S.C. 90, and said she was happy to hear about the hospital’s plan to open.
“International Drive has been a Godsend to so many of us,” Soto said. “It opened up a whole new avenue of getting around town, and the fact that McLeod is planning to add on is certainly an asset to all of us. It certainly will benefit everyone here in the Highway 90 corridor.”
The Carolina Forest campus will offer “a wide range of health services that will provide the emergent, primary, specialty and inpatient care that patients need,” according to the release.
This is a developing story, please check back for updates.