August 2009

Hilton Head Island’s Top Amenity: Healthcare

Author: Linda S. Hopkins

When you think of Hilton Head Island, what amenities immediately come to mind? Sunny beaches, lush golf courses? Tennis courts, waving palms, meandering leisure paths, heaping platters of fresh seafood? What you may be overlooking is one of our most valuable assets of all: The Hilton Head Hospital. Whether you are a full- or part-time resident, frequent visitor or first-time vacationer, you probably won’t think much about the hospital… until you need it. The good news is, when that time comes, you’ll have immediate access to one of the finest medical facilities in the state of South Carolina.

Built in 1974, the Hilton Head Hospital opened its doors in 1975. Since that time, it has grown exponentially to meet the needs of a burgeoning Lowcountry population and the annual influx of visitors. Today’s Hilton Head Hospital, a part of Tenet Healthcare Corporation, is a 93-bed care facility with over 100 physicians, providing more than 30 medical and surgical specialties, including acute care and 24-hour emergency room services.

In an effort to make quality care available throughout the Lowcountry, the Bluffton-Okatie Outpatient Center near Sun City was opened in 1998, and in 2007, Coastal Carolina Hospital in Hardeeville became a sister-facility to the Hilton Head Hospital. Coastal Carolina is a 41-bed full-service hospital, which includes inpatient rehabilitation services and an outpatient wound care center.

“We’re not just Hilton Head anymore. Now we have a network [Hilton Head Regional Healthcare], said Brad Talbert, vice president of business development.

Making the grade
If you think all hospitals are alike, you might be surprised to know that the level of service and quality of care can vary substantially. Based on evaluations by HealthGrades, a leading independent healthcare ratings organization, Hilton Head Hospital meets and exceeds industry standards and has been recognized for outstanding service in several crucial specialized areas of care, most notably its cardiac care unit and GI services. Following are specialties in which Hilton Head Hospital goes above and beyond the expected:

Cardiac Care. According to Talbert, Hilton Head Hospital currently has five interventional cardiologists on staff as well as a cardiac catheterization lab. Cardiothoracic & vascular surgeon, Dr. David Kastl is experienced in cardiac artery bypass graft (CABG) as well as valve repair and replacement. “Our outcomes are outstanding,” said Talbert. “We are a five-star facility for treatment of heart attack and one of the top 10 hospitals in the state for cardiac care.” In addition, Hilton Head Hospital received a silver award for heart failure management through the Get With the Guidelines program. (GWTG is the premier hospital-based quality improvement program for the American Heart Association and the American Stroke Association, empowering healthcare provider teams to consistently treat heart and stroke patients according to the most up-to-date guidelines.)

Digestive Diseases. Boasting HealthGrades’ five-star status, ranked within the top five percent in the nation, best in the Charleston area and number two in the state, Hilton Head Hospital’s center for digestive disease is a one-stop shop for patients experiencing any kind of gastrointestinal distress. Because the specialty encompasses a broad range of services, a central call center has been established to put patients in touch with the appropriate source for evaluation and treatment. “We have folks who are skilled and trained to funnel them where they need to go, which might be a primary care physician, gastroenterologist or general surgeon,” explained Talbert.

Women’s Services. Hilton Head Hospital also sets the highest standards of care for women, taking a multi-disciplinary approach. “The kingpin is our breast health center, preventing and treating breast cancer,” said Talbert. “We also have a satellite location in Bluffton that operates out of our Burnt Church Specialty Care Center.” The hospital birthed over 700 babies last year and has a relationship with the Clinica de la Mama, which provides prenatal care for Hispanic women who lack health insurance. In addition, the hospital hosts conferences, including the Hope and Healing conference for breast cancer survivors, the annual Women’s Heart Health Conference and other educational forums throughout the year, specifically addressing women’s health issues.

Wellness Programs. While the Hilton Head Hospital is proud to offer the finest in medical treatment services to mend bodies, their greater mission is to promote healthy lifestyles. “Obviously, with the health reform coming down through Washington, one of the big issues is preventative medicine,” said Talbert. Toward that end, the hospital provides educational classes in diabetes, healthy living programs, family classes and preventive health screenings, many offered at minimal cost or, in some cases, no cost to the public.

Additional community benefits
In addition to the direct healthcare services provided to the public at large, Hilton Head Hospital makes many valuable contributions to the community as a whole. According to Talbert, the hospital gave over $260,000 in cash contributions to local charities last year, supporting area fundraising events and affiliated programs of United Way, the American Heart Association, the American Cancer Society and others. The hospital also supports Volunteers in Medicine and Rotary Club’s Gift of Life Program and serves as the primary healthcare provider for The Heritage Foundation. At the same time, Hilton Head Hospital is contributing to the future health of our community by fostering relationships with the University of South Carolina Beaufort (USCB) and Technical College of the Lowcountry (TCL), providing funds along with training grounds for up-and-coming nurses. “Even with the economy the way it is, we have still been able to provide these contributions, because we think it is important,” said Talbert.

The question of profitability
Because Hilton Head Hospital is a “for-profit” hospital, the question frequently arises: What does that mean? “Our mission is the same as any hospital, the only difference is how we raise our capital,” said Talbert. “It’s not that we are not interested in the community or that we are all about the penny. That’s the furthest thing from the truth. Everything that we do here is about the patient.”

Talbert emphasized the balance that exists between its corporate affiliation and community roots. “Your board has to be strong and focused on local ties, and we have that,” he said, naming Hilton Head Hospital board chairman, Emmet McCracken and a host of other prominent Lowcountry leaders who serve as directors. “They direct the actions of the hospital, signing off on everything that we do. They approve the budget. They review all of our quality indicators, and they hold us accountable for providing quality service to our patients.”

Talbert also pointed out the local tax dollars generated by the hospital. “As a for-profit entity, we pay taxes which are quite significant.” The local taxes go toward the improvement of local infrastructure and community programs, he explained, adding that profits are also invested back into the community. “Our company does not pay a dividend,” he said. “All money we raise on the open market goes to pay down our debt for capital that we have invested in our hospitals already or allows us to garner new capital so that we can invest in the latest technology, facility upgrades and whatever.”

In contrast, a community-based, non-profit hospital has to generate it all there. They also have powerful foundations that supplement, Talbert explained. “It’s basically more of a behind-the-scenes question of how you capitalize your organization. But if you’re not operating to generate a positive net income, you’re not going to have the money to reinvest—to put into the plant and the facilities and to buy all the new technology, like imaging, surgical robots and those kinds of things,” he continued. “When you look at the benefit that we provide—the service, the charitable contributions, the taxes that we pay—it’s a good thing.”

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