Roper seeks to build 50-bed hospital in Berkeley County

Roper St. Francis Healthcare today announced plans to seek state approval to build a 50-bed full-service hospital in the fast-growing Carnes Crossroads area in lower Berkeley County.

Construction on the two-and-a-half-year project is expected to begin in 2010.

Roper said it plans to apply for its primary approval - known as a "certificate of need" -in October.

"Berkeley County is seeing tremendous growth, and we are excited to respond with plans to provide for the health-care needs of people living and working in these communities, now and in the future," said David L. Dunlap, president and chief executive officer.

Roper said the county, with 155,000 residents, is the ninth largest in the state and is one of five without a full-service hospital.

The new 24-hour facility will not add any new beds to Roper's local health care network. Instead, the nonprofit wants to transfer 50 existing beds from its downtown hospital to the Carnes Crossroads site, which would "redistribute hospital beds to better serve the emerging population centers within the greater Charleston area."

"It's vitally important that we as health-care providers acknowledge and respond to population growth and shifts," Dunlap said in a statement Thursday. "The relocation of hospital beds from downtown Charleston to the growing Berkeley County community makes good sense. Plus, it gives local residents a convenient choice."

Roper said it treated more than more than 25,800 Berkeley residents last year for outpatient surgery, emergency care or in-patient hospitalization.

Its announcement follows that of rival health-care provider Trident Health System, which last month filed paperwork seeking permission to build a $115 million, 50-bed hospital in Moncks Corner, also in Berkeley County.

Earlier this year, Roper St. Francis, which operates hospitals in downtown Charleston and West Ashley, paid $8.9 million for a 64-acre swath of forestland in the yet-to-be-built Carnes Crossroads subdivision in Goose Creek.

In late July Roper St. Francis asked the state for authorization to relocate three operating rooms from its Moncks Corner ambulatory surgical center to a two-story medical building it plans to build on the Carnes Crossroads property.

Health care providers are positioning themselves to capitalize on the residential growth projected for Berkeley County.

Rival health-care provider Trident Health System was first out of the gate, filing its paperwork last month for a $115 million, 50-bed hospital it wants to build in Moncks Corner.

The state has the power in these cases to dictate construction timelines, as it did when Roper St. Francis and East Cooper Regional Medical Center each sought permission for new hospitals for Mount Pleasant.

East Cooper Medical is now building a 140-bed replacement facility next to its current hospital on Johnnie Dodds Boulevard, adding 40 beds to its capacity.

Roper St. Francis recently broke ground on an 85-bed hospital farther north off U.S. Highway 17.

For more details, see Friday's Post and Courier.