You're nothing without community: MUSC shows the way with hospital years in the making

The recently opened Medical University of South Carolina Health Black River Medical Center came out of the ruins of two independent community hospitals in a rural part of the state.

Both those hospitals — Lake City (S.C.) Community Hospital and Kingstree, S.C.-based Williamsburg Regional Hospital — agreed to transfer operations to the 16-hospital MUSC Health system for the new facility in Cades, S.C., which opened in January.

But the integration of the $50 million campus would not have been as relatively smooth as it has been without proper community buy-in, Jay Hinesley, CEO of MUSC Health's Pee Dee division, told Becker's.

"It's incredibly important," he said. "We spent a lot of time on the ground to get a tremendous amount of buy-in and we did what we said we would do."

Discussions to build a facility such as Black River Medical Center had been ongoing for about 30 years, a sign that both communities were hanging very tightly to their local hospitals, Mr. Hinesley added.

"They are very proud of their communities and were waiting to bring in the right partner," he said. "There was a lot of work with community leaders and with their constituents."

Rival potential systems only offered freestanding emergency departments to replace the two existing hospitals, but MUSC wanted to go ahead with a full hospital offering. 

It was also built with possible expansion in mind and to high sustainability levels, said facility designer Judy Stephens, principal at McMillan Pazdan Smith Architecture, of the 64,000-square-foot facility. Currently, the center includes 25 inpatient beds and 15 beds in its ER.

Career highlight

The recipe seems to have paid off, with the hospital boasting the highest patient satisfaction across the MUSC system.

There were approximately 400 caregivers at the original two hospitals, and 85 percent of those have now found jobs within the MUSC system, approximately 175 (full time equivalents) of which are now at the center. The hospital was also paid for with state and federal grants, meaning no debt.

"It's harder and harder to operate rural hospitals," Mr. Hinesley said. "This has been the highlight of my career."

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