COVID-19 puts local hospital expansion projects on hold

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HORRY COUNTY, SC (WBTW) – COVID-19 is prompting two local hospitals along the Grand Strand to put their construction projects on hold for the time being.

In March, News13 reported Grand Strand Medical Center planned to build a surgical unit for it to be able to keep up with the population growth. But because of COVID-19, those plans are now delayed.

“This pandemic has totally changed, I think, the way we are going about our lives,” said Grand Strand Health CEO Mark Sims.

Hospitals in Horry County are shifting their focus right now, and that includes putting some expansion projects on hold. “I think our primary focus is to make sure that the hospital is prepared for the surge that could come with COVID-19 patients,” said Conway Medical Center CFO Brian Argo.

Construction on the fifth floor at Grand Strand Medical Center adding 34 medical surgical beds will start in October now, instead of June.

Construction on their plan to add three new operating rooms and expand nutrition services won’t start now until December.

Originally, the addition was in response to Horry County’s population growth.

“We were really busy,” said Sims. “We hardly did not have any inpatient beds available, you know, we were really, we were struggling.”

But, CEO Mark Sims says now, that’s not the case, and the delay won’t phase their ability to keep up.

“Even with everything that’s happened with the pandemic, we fully expect there to continue to be significant population growth that will occur here in our area, so we’re going to continue to plan,” he said.

Sims also says there’s a need specifically for neurosurgeons and cardiac surgeons, and they’re continuing to recruit both, despite the delay in these projects.

Conway Medical Center’s plan for a primary care clinic is also delayed for about one to three months, but like Grand Strand Medical, they’re prepared.

“These are long-term strategic plans and we’ve been recruiting providers and clinicians in order to staff these future offices,” said Argo.

Along with both hospitals wish to focus on COVID-19 efforts, another concern Conway Medical Center had was the safety of the construction workers.

“We’re hearing, you know, some folks that are a little bit concerned about getting on the job site and working, so we just want to make sure that we’re being sensitive to all those pressures,” Argo said.

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