Palmetto Primary Care to bring 1,500 jobs to Nexton site near Summerville

By John McDermott, The Post and Courier, Charleston, S.C.
McClatchy-Tribune Information Services

Feb. 06--A North Charleston-based health care practice is proposing to invest $135 million to build a 1,500-worker medical hub with the help of a Wall Street powerhouse.

The project near downtown Summerville is being spearheaded by Palmetto Primary Care Physicians and Equity Healthcare, an offshoot of the global investment giant Blackstone Group.

Details of the Palmetto Health & Wellness Campus will be unveiled Monday at Nexton, a large commercial and residential development taking shape near Interstate 26 and U.S. Highway 17A. Gov. Nikki Haley is expected to attend.

Palmetto Primary Care is promising that its new venture will bring down medical costs. It said Thursday that it wouldn't elaborate until next week's announcement.

The practice, which is led by CEO Jeff Lehrich, shared some key highlights about its plans in a written overview of Monday's event.

The document described the investment as "a physician-led approach to health-care reform" that brings together the latest developments in "office, diagnostics, telemedicine and minimally invasive ambulatory care."

It also said the centralized location "will support independent practitioners, promote collaboration among primary care doctors and specialists through the clinical integration of medical, health and wellness services, while reducing medical costs."

About 75 percent of the projected 1,500 jobs, or more than 1,100 positions, will be newly created.

The first stage calls for two 150,000-square-foot medical office buildings, an ambulatory surgery center, a 24-hour urgent care unit, rehabilitation services and other health facilities.

Follow-up phases could include cancer treatment, hospice services, assisted-living residences and medical lodging.

Palmetto Primary Care said its future campus will enable participating physicians to remain independent by sharing expenses and services and by minimizing duplication.

Also, doctors and other care providers will have access to an electronic records system, centralized billing and bulk purchasing deals.

An ultra-high speed Internet network being installed at Nexton will enable the sharing and viewing of large medical images with specialists in other parts of the country or world, according to the overview.

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A big question is how the new venture will affect existing medical providers. Trident Health System already operates the nearby Summerville Medical Center. Roper St. Francis Healthcare wants to build a hospital not far from Nexton, in the Carnes Crossroad area.

Trident didn't respond to an emailed request for comment Thursday. Roper declined to comment.

Palmetto Primary Care is made up of more than 90 doctors who practice in primary and specialty care areas. The group employs more than 650 clinical and support staffers at 32 offices in seven South Carolina counties.

Equity Healthcare is named as Palmetto Primary Care's partner in the Nexton deal. It was formed in 2008 by the Blackstone Group to combat rising medical costs, according to its website. The firm said it is one of the largest private-sector buyers of health-care services in the country.


Reach John McDermott at 937-5572.


(c)2014 The Post and Courier (Charleston, S.C.)

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