The town of Bluffton has enjoyed sustained population growth since the 1990s, drawing with it a big slice of older residents who wanted to retire to a temperate climate and a casual lifestyle.
Del Webb and his company envisioned the potential real estate opportunities that would attract northerners who wanted to escape their winters and enjoy the Lowcountry life.
Sun City Hilton Head opened in 1995 and is now home to 14,000 age 55 and older residents. With the new arrivals came the healthcare services to attend to their physical needs.
This 20-plus-year trend of accommodating older folks and their wellness will continue well into the future with the imminent arrival of Jimmy Buffet's Margaritaville retirement community and his loyal band of aging Parrotheads farther west on U.S. 278.
These days, it seems like a month doesn't go by without a new announcement of a medical or specialist facility coming to Bluffton soon.
The explosion of healthcare facilities comes as no surprise to life-long, fourth-generation Blufftonian Adam Simoneaux, owner of Scotts Market butcher shop on May River Road that was founded by his grandfather in 1970.
"If you look at the demographics, we have the very old, the freshly retired, the worker bees like my generation, and we have the youth," said the 47 year old who is married with two young children. "Guess what? We all need healthcare in some manner, fashion or form. So why wouldn't we have everything under the sun here in Bluffton?"
In the past few months alone:
- Beaufort Memorial and the Medical University of South Carolina jointly announced on Jan. 25 their plan to open a micro hospital at Okatie Crossing, the first such facility in the state. (See full story on 12A.) The 15- to 25-bed acute-care facility for adults and adolescents will be located adjacent to Beaufort Memorial's planned medical campus at the intersection of U.S. 278 and S.C. 170 that will open in 2019. Construction details have not been released.
- Beaufort Memorial Hospital celebrated the opening of its new pediatric rehabilitation center off Buckwalter Parkway in Bluffton in November. The HealthLink for Children program treats patients from birth to age 21 with therapy for conditions ranging from impaired mobility, thinking and sensory processing, swallowing disorders and autism.
The kid-friendly quarters has expanded business hours and introduced a "swing room" feature to assist patients on balance, core strengthening and other treatment goals.
The program moved into its new facility after relocating from the hospital's Bluffton Medical Services complex at 7 Arley Way. The hospital's Bluffton OB-GYN practice will be expanded into the newly vacated space later this month.
- Construction on St. Joseph's/Candler 4-acre medical campus at Buckwalter Commerce Park is scheduled to begin in late 2019. The $22 million project will generate more than 60 new jobs at its planned 40,000-square-foot facility. Among the services offered will be primary care, an imaging center, medical and radiation oncology, brachytherapy, and an open MRI unit.
"This announcement (in November) makes perfect business sense for a major medical player such as St. Joseph's/ Candler," said Matt Green, board chairman for the Don Ryan Center for Innovation in Bluffton, in a press release. "Bluffton is the fastest growing town in the region and one of the fastest-growing in the Southeast. This facility will be centrally located in Beaufort County and is expected to attract patients in several neighboring towns and counties."
The Palmettos opened its independent and assisted living, memory care and physician services facility in Okatie in June. The continuum of care community, which is affiliated with the National Healthcare Corp., focuses on the physical, social, emotional and spiritual needs of its residents.
In the past few years, these developments kept increasing Bluffton's presence on the regional medical map:
- The Hilton Head Regional Healthcare Bluffton Medical Campus, a 60,000-square-foot outpatient center providing a range of outpatient diagnostic services and serves as the new home for the hospital's Breast Health Center, made its debut in 2014.
The center also houses a clinical laboratory collection center, anticoagulation clinic and specialty physician practices.
- Bluffton Medical Services, an affiliate of Beaufort Memorial Hospital, opened in 2006 at 11 Arley Way. Bluffton, Hilton Head and Sun City residents take advantage of a full-range of medical services, from primary care, digital mammography, vascular services, wellness education, diabetes care, electrocardiography and more.
- Memorial Health in Savannah opened its 15,000-square-foot Legacy Center in 2010. This location adjacent to Sun City offers medical specialties such as oncology, breast health, neurosurgery and podiatry, as well as private practices in internal medicine and obstetrics and gynecology.
"We strive to provide convenient access to world-class healthcare," said Phillip S. Schaengold, former Memorial Health president and CEO, in a press release at that time. "Legacy Center allows our Bluffton customers to receive the exceptional care they deserve, right in their own backyard. We're proud to be a part of this rapidly growing community,"
- The National Healthcare Corp., known as NHC, opened a 40-residence wing for short-term and extended, post-acute rehabilitative and skilled nursing care in Okatie in 2010. Physical, occupational, speech, medical nutritional respiratory and outpatient therapy is offered.
In addition to the larger facilities, there's a long list of specialty services that have opened in Bluffton and Okatie over the past 20 years.
These include urgent care, dermatology, optometry, audiology, cancers, mental illness, nephrology, heart disease, urology, pain management, pharmacies, home health care agencies, hyperbarics and wound care, and help for sleep and eating disorders.
Dean Rowland is a veteran senior editor and freelance writer.