East Cooper Medical Center

East Cooper Medical Center is near Mathis Ferry Road and I-526 in Mount Pleasant. The Tenet Healthcare-owned hospital extended its reach to Daniel Island last week. File/Brad Nettles/Staff

East Cooper Medical Center is expanding beyond the borders of its longtime hometown of Mount Pleasant as it looks to bring more patients into its fold.

Its latest stop is Daniel Island, where new primary care, OB/GYN and gastroenterology practices opened last week, not far from an exit along U.S. Interstate 526. It's a short drive from the provider's main campus and 130-bed hospital on the other side of the Wando River.

More expansion-related announcements could be soon to come as East Cooper Medical adds more physicians to its payroll and opens more practices across the region. 

CEO Patrick Downes said the newest outpost at 880 Island Park Drive is part of a plan of bring health care and professional providers closer to where patients live.

Few other health care options are available on Daniel Island, mainly because other options are accessible on either side of the Wando and Cooper rivers. Downes said East Cooper Medical wants to do better than that and provide an added convenience.

"We don't want patients to have to cross bridges if they don't have to," he said. 

Adding physicians who treat patients outside the main hospital can help a health system grow its base of customers and encourage loyalty, he said.

Roper St. Francis, one of the other major health systems in the region, has been especially aggressive on the expansion front, in an era when few local physicians operate independently of hospital owners.

East Cooper Medical Center now has about 17 practice locations from Georgetown to West Ashley, said Michael McEachen, chief strategy officer. 

It's part of a plan by the parent company, Dallas-based Tenet Healthcare, to manage health for patients with chronic illnesses. In an April earnings call, the company's chief operating officer said Tenet is adding "emphasis and focus in our primary care and specialty areas."

Once completed, 15 physicians will work out of the Daniel Island location offering access to handful of medical specialties. 

The office is in a quickly developing block of town, inside a new building with a restaurant on the ground floor. It doesn't look like a traditional medical practice.  

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The building is in the shadow of HCA South Atlantic's regional headquarters, a company that's affiliated with Tenet competitor Trident Health. Next door, a new chain of a local gym opened just weeks ago. 

The Medical University of South Carolina also opened its own primary care office on Daniel Island in March.

About 13,000 people were living on Daniel Island in 2017, according to the Census Bureau, compared to slightly more than 1,000 in 2000.

Growth came to the 4,000-acre Berkeley County community as residents moved into the region and as businesses, such as the big technology employers Blackbaud Inc. and Benefitfocus, set up shop and expanded. 

Dr. Melissa Hunter, a primary care physician, has been practicing on Daniel Island since 2005. The last couple of years have seen explosive growth, she said.

"The needs of the people here have grown as well," she said.

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