Technically, the Medical University of South Carolina's new Children's After Hours Care clinic in Summerville is only 22 miles away from the main campus in Charleston.

If you go

The new MUSC Children's After Hours Care in Summerville is open from 4 to 10 p.m. Monday through Friday, and from noon to 7 p.m. on weekends.

The clinic is located at 4330 Ladson Road, Summerville.

MUSC operates other After Hours pediatric clinics in North Charleston and Mount Pleasant.

But Medical University Hospital CEO Pat Cawley said Monday that those 22 miles may seem more like a thousand miles for some families.

"We've made a major commitment at MUSC to get out into the community," Cawley said at the clinic's grand opening.

So have other Charleston area hospitals. Roper St. Francis Healthcare opened an Express Care clinic in North Charleston last year. Trident Health announced it will invest nearly $10 million to build a new freestanding emergency department near the Tanger Outlets Center. All of the hospitals own several physician practices scattered throughout Charleston, Berkeley and Dorchester counties.

Each one of these is an example of how hospitals are trying to offer health care services when and where it's more convenient for patients - all the while expanding their collective footprint in a fiercely competitive market.

These outposts are considered a guaranteed way to draw new customers into one of the hospital systems.

John Sanders, administrator of MUSC Children's Hospital, said 20 percent of pediatric patients at the two existing MUSC Children's After Hours Care clinics in Mount Pleasant and North Charleston are new to the MUSC system. About 2 percent of all patients treated at one of these facilities will be referred to a sub-specialist at MUSC or transferred to the main Children's Hospital, he said.

"What we focused it on was to complement the pediatricians that are in town," Sanders said.

When the pediatricians' offices are closed, MUSC Children's After Hours Care is open - from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m.

Roper St. Francis Healthcare operates After Hours Care clinics on James Island and Mount Pleasant for patients of all ages. The MUSC Children's After Hours clinics are specifically designed for pediatric patients.

The Medical University Hospital invested $1.85 million in the Summverille project, including $200,000 on a new kid-friendly GE Healthcare X-ray room. It's designed to look like a campground called "Cub River Falls." Cartoon images of canoes, camp fires and tents are projected onto the walls while the X-ray machine is up and running. It helps keep frightened children still during a potentially intimidating experience, said Doug Dietz, a GE Healthcare innovation architect.

"The last thing we really want to do is sedate our children," Dietz said.

In a normal X-ray room, children need to be sedated about 80 percent of the time, he said. "That's the essence of this, but to be honest with you - the whole thing is health care doesn't have to suck. Health care can be cool."

The X-ray room is also a ready-made marketing hook for MUSC. It's the first GE Adventure Series X-ray room in South Carolina.

MUSC plans to construct a similar room at the Children's Hospital on the peninsula, Sanders said.

U.S. Rep. Mark Sanford, R-S.C.; Summerville Mayor Bill Collins; and state Reps. Jenny Horne, R-Summerville, and Patsy Knight, D-St. George, also attended the ribbon-cutting at the new clinic Monday.

Reach Lauren Sausser at 937-5598.