A private operator of senior health care centers has added five South Carolina hospices to its portfolio, including one in Charleston, bringing its statewide total of locations for the terminally ill to six.

Murfreesboro, Tenn.-based National HealthCare Corp. said in a statement Wednesday that the deal closed Jan. 1. The seller was Advantage Hospice and Home Care of Lumberton, N.C.

Financial terms were not disclosed.

The names of the newly acquired centers will now go by NHC Hospice, said Gerald Coggin, National HealthCare's senior vice president for corporate relations.

"We're in the process of absorbing the assets ... right now," Coggin said Wednesday. "We're planning no operational changes."

The sale included the Advantage Hospice at 2270 Ashley Crossing Drive, off Glenn McConnell Parkway in West Ashley and near two nursing homes that National HealthCare bought last summer. The other newly acquired hospices are in Columbia, Sumter, Aiken and Myrtle Beach.

Before the last week's purchase, National HealthCare's only South Carolina hospice was in Greenville.

Funded largely by Medicare and private insurance, hospice services provide care to people in their final months of life, either at home or at an inpatient facility. The focus is on providing comfort to the terminally ill when it has been determined that all medical resources have been exhausted.

Coggin said his company was interested in Advantage's South Carolina hospices "because the locations match where we have other facilities."

He noted that National HealthCare also operates more than 1,600 skilled-nursing-care beds, 112 assisted-living units and four home-care businesses around the state.

"It's more to match our existing services rather than, 'Here's a hospice for sale,' " he said.

Last year, National HealthCare paid $13.25 million to buy the 132-bed Trinity Mission Health and Rehabilitation and the 60-bed Trinity Mission Assisted Living as part of its effort to expand into the Lowcountry. Both are on Ashley Crossing Drive.

The company has renamed the larger skilled-nursing home NHC HealthCare Charleston Health and Rehabilitation. The smaller assisted-living community is now NHC Place Charleston.

National HealthCare, which trades on the American Stock Exchange, has been operating in South Carolina since the mid-1970s. The graying, retiree-rich Palmetto State has since grown into one of the company's biggest markets, Coggin said.

"We consider it part of our back yard," he said.