Greenville Health System is about to embark on a $40 million project to develop “comprehensive, multi-specialty ambulatory care centers” in Anderson and Spartanburg counties.
The move, approved by trustees Tuesday, is part of the hospital’s strategy to expand ambulatory services in its primary market, which is the Upstate, Malcolm Isely, GHS’s vice president of strategic services, told The Greenville News.
“We’ve got businesses we work with that want us to cover their employees, and relationships with insurers, and we have patients in counties around us,” he said. “We need to fill some of the gaps.”
Isely said that because plans haven’t been finalized yet, it’s too early to say how many centers there will be or their exact location. It’s also too soon to say precisely what kind of services these centers will offer, though they will have an urgent-care component as well as different physician disciplines and diagnostic services, possibly endoscopy, surgery and advanced imaging, he said.
Though a financing plan hasn’t yet been developed, Isely said the project will be funded through traditional methods, such as bond issues and reserves.
It won’t mean a rate hike for patients, he said.
While a Certificate of Need seeking state approval for the project has yet to be submitted to the Department of Health and Environmental Control, Isely said he expects the centers will be up and running within two years.
Alwyn Cassil, an independent health policy consultant with Policy Translation in Silver Spring, Md., said that historically, although GHS has been positioning itself to be “a one-stop shop,” it hasn’t gone head-to-head with competitors in Spartanburg and Anderson. But hospitals are under a lot of pressure from declining Medicare reimbursements, she said.
“It’s unusual in that it appears that GHS is going to make a bold move into other competitors’ turf,” she said.
Columbia health care consultant Lynn Bailey said that as the health care reimbursement landscape changes, hospitals are looking to grab up as much business as they can to keep their competitors from getting it.
“The best defense is a good offense,” she said. “And I think they’re going on offense.”
Isely said it’s about the market moving to more outpatient as opposed to inpatient services.
“This is our strategy,” he said. “We want to offer low-cost, efficient ambulatory services.”
Spartanburg Regional Healthcare System declined to comment.
AnMed Health in Anderson released a statement saying that although it hadn’t heard about GHS’s plans, it wasn’t surprised.
“Going forward, the landscape of health care will change and competition for an expanding share of insured patients will increase,” the statement said.
“GHS and every health care provider in our region will become more aggressive in their expansion efforts, AnMed Health included. We’ve grown our network of primary care providers by 37 to almost 50 since 2008. We’ve also made significant investments in people and technology.”
Furthermore, the statement said, the state’s Certificate of Need process reviews capacity and “helps prevent an entity from arriving from outside of a community with the intent of cherry picking only certain patients. We are sure all of this has been carefully considered by the GHS officials, and we are sure it will be carefully reviewed by the state agency charged with its oversight.”
The board also approved a $19 million project to move low-risk obstetrical services now at Greenville Memorial Hospital to Patewood Memorial Hospital on the Eastside.
Isely said specialty services are growing at Greenville Memorial but that there isn’t enough space to house them. So officials looked at options for moving low-acuity patients and decided to move obstetrics to the fourth floor of Patewood.
Memorial has about 6,000 deliveries a year and Patewood could accommodate up to 2,000 of them, which will mean more volume there as well, he said.
“We haven’t finished building out all of Patewood Memorial,” he said. “That’s the perfect place for obstetrics.”
The move puts the new GHS obstetrical services across the street from St. Francis Eastside, which also has labor and delivery services.
St. Francis officials couldn’t be reached for comment.
Isely said Greenville Memorial’s services are simply outgrowing their current space. Even corporate offices now located at Greenville Memorial are moving downtown to make room for more clinical space, he said.
“Other patients will be moving out of Memorial to other parts of the system, too,” he said. “We have a need for decompression at Memorial.”