Seabrook freestanding ED

A rendering shows the Medical University of South Carolina's planned emergency department near Seabrook Islands. Provided/MUSC

As it nears completion of two big projects in downtown Charleston and West Ashley, the Medical University of South Carolina is eyeing a smaller expansion in an underserved area of the region.

MUSC announced Wednesday it plans to build a freestanding emergency department on Johns Island between Seabrook and Kiawah. The $15.3 million facility will have exam and trauma rooms and a helipad.

The outpost would also include a medical office building for primary and specialty care practices.

Kiawah Partners, the developer of Kiawah Island's residential areas, will donate the land on Seabrook Island Road. The parcel has a Johns Island address and is less than a mile from the gate that allows access to Seabrook, an upscale, private community.

Dr. Patrick Cawley, CEO of MUSC Health, said in a statement that the area lacks the kind of medical care the new facility will provide. 

"The Sea Islands communities continue to experience rapid residential growth," Cawley said. "As a result, their residents need improved access to health care."

Tourists in the area also require health care services, Cawley said. 

Charleston City Councilman Marvin Wagner said no emergency medical services are available on Johns Island. The MUSC expansion will be a convenience for area residents and visitors, he said.

"That’s a whole lot better than trying to get off that island to get to town," Wagner said. 

MUSC this week submitted an application for permission to build the facility to the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control, which must approve the project.

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Hospital systems in Charleston and elsewhere have been adding more clinics and other health care facilities closer to where patients live. The new locations also are designed to deter the use of emergency rooms for routine medical problems that are not life-threatening. 

MUSC is pursing the new project as it puts the finishing touches on the Shawn Jenkins Children's Hospital downtown. Also, its new clinic at the Citadel Mall is set to open in a former J.C. Penney department store by the end of the year.  

Johns Island, Kiawah and Seabrook do not have a hospital to call their own. For the most part, residents need to cross the Stono River for emergency medical care.

“For more than four years, we have worked hand in hand with MUSC to develop a concept for a world-class medical facility, and it is extremely gratifying to see it move closer to becoming a reality," Chris Randolph of Kiawah Partners said in a statement. 

Reach Mary Katherine Wildeman at 843-937-5594. Follow her on Twitter @mkwildeman.