Health Care

Lexington Medical Center nabs 9 doctors in race to corner Midlands baby market

Update, 6:17 p.m.: This story was updated to include comments and information from Prisma Health.

Lexington Medical Center is bolstering its ever-expanding maternity and delivery services by adding doctors from South Carolina OB/GYN Associates to its lineup.

The nine obstetricians and gynecologists will join the hospital’s network on Oct. 1, bringing more than 50 years of care, hundreds of patients and about 800 yearly baby deliveries with them.

Doctors James Stands, M. Tucker Laffitte III, Mark Salley, David Holladay, Thomas Giudice, Robert Grumbach, Rebecca Ridenhour, Christopher Hutchinson and Courtney Brooks will become Lexington Medical Center employees and move into the hospital’s main campus in West Columbia.

And all of the baby deliveries the doctors used to perform at Prisma Health facilities will also move to Lexington Medical Center — a boon to the hospital’s growth plans and an addition to the 22 obstetricians the hospital system already employs.

“We’re proud to combine their legacy of providing exceptional care for women with ours,” CEO and president Tod Augsburger said in an emailed statement.

South Carolina OB/GYN Associates could not be reached for comment.

Lexington Medical Center delivered the second highest number of babies in South Carolina — about 3,300 babies, or nine per day — in 2018, according to data from the hospital. Only Greenville Health System, which merged with Palmetto Health System to become Prisma Health in November 2017, delivered more babies. Greenville Memorial Hospital doctors delivered 3,866 in 2018 and the Midlands branch of the Prisma Health network delivered more than 7,000, according to spokesperson Tammie Epps.

Palmetto Health System included Palmetto Richland, Palmetto Baptist and Palmetto Parkridge hospitals.

Investments show that Lexington Medical Center wants to maintain the hold it has historically had on the Midlands market.

The $400 million, 545,000-square foot hospital expansion that opened in March included a centerpiece, two-floor labor and delivery center. Along with modern amenities, lots of natural light and more private rooms, a large mural in the new center highlights how prolific Lexington Medical Center’s maternity ward is.

Health care researcher Emerson Smith said the hospital has been trying to be the go-to for births since it opened in the 1970s.

“It’s a very positive image, bringing new babies into the world,” he said. “...If you can bring healthy women into a hospital, you can get them — since women are the primary health care decision makers for their families — to bring more business to the hospital as they and their children age.”

Historically, Smith said, Lexington Medical Center was “the no. 1 choice” for delivery. And with Prisma Health headquarters in Greenville, that system’s local hospitals “may have less power to take action to actively compete with LMC for deliveries,” added Smith, who also teaches at the University of South Carolina’s medical school.

Epps said Prisma Health is still home base for for 14 OB/GYN physician practices and the hospital system plans to open a Level II Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at the Baptist Parkridge hospital in October.

Although Lexington Medical Center operates in the same area as part of Prisma’s 13-hospital system, LMC spokesperson Jennifer Wilson said the hospital still delivered more babies than Prisma’s Richland, Parkridge, Baptist, Upstate and Sumter hospitals did individually.

Pressure from the Prisma Health merger “had nothing to do with” the hospital’s decision to hire more OB/GYNs, according to Wilson.

“Instead, we’re adding to our staff of OB/GYNs to bring together outstanding clinicians that allow us to take the best possible care of patients in the Midlands,” she said.

The quazi-public Lexington County hospital also unveiled recently plans for a 225,000-square foot community health facility in northeast Columbia, another indication that it seeks to compete with the regional behemoth Prisma Health along with Providence Health. Providence already operates a northeast hospital, near I-77 and Farrow Road.

LMC’s northeast outpost at the intersection of Clemson Road and Longtown Road will offer outpatient services, such as urgent care, physical therapy, imaging and surgeries.

There are already nine private practices in the northeast region of Columbia that belong to the Lexington Medical Center network, according to Augsburger.

South Carolina OB/GYN Associates will move from 1333 Taylor St. Suite 3D to 2728 Sunset Blvd. inside Lexington Medical Park 1 in West Columbia.

Correction, 9:16 p.m., Sept. 19: A previous version of this story misstated which part of the Prisma Health system delivered 7,000 babies. Prisma Health Midlands delivered more than 7,000 babies.

Isabella Cueto is a bilingual multimedia journalist covering Lexington County, one of the fastest-growing areas of South Carolina. She previously worked as a reporter for the Medill Justice Project and WLRN, South Florida’s NPR station. She is a graduate of the University of Miami, where she studied journalism and theatre arts.