The CEO of Palmetto Primary Care Physicians announced plans for a 50-acre medical campus in the Summerville area during a news conference today.

Jeff Lehrich, who has been running the outpatient physicians group for about six months, said the campus will feature twin 150,000-square-foot medical office towers. The first phase of the campus will cost approximately $135 million.

"We believe that every patient deserves a health care delivery system that offers the highest quality of medical care, innovative technology and the best independent medical providers but not at a premium dollar," Lehrich said.

The campus is being built in the 4,500-acre Nexton community by MeadWestvaco Corp., at the crossroads of Interstate 26’s exit 199B and U.S. Highway 17A in Summerville.

A 12-story clinical and administrative office tower that will include space for medical retail is also planned along with a hotel for patients and their families, around 200 assisted-living units and an independent-living facility.

The Palmetto Health & Wellness campus also is expected to include an ambulatory surgery center, a clinical decision unit, a skilled nursing, rehabilitation and memory care center and a 24-hour urgent care and emergency department center. Centers for health and wellness, cancer and hospice will be built as well, Lehrich said.

Summerville Mayor Bill Collins said he fully expects in two or three years for the campus to attract patients that will positively impact the town's economy.

"They'll be getting treated here, spending their money here. They may shop here. Who knows, they may buy homes here," Collins said.

“It’s going to be concierge-level service with common registration of the patients and open waiting areas with a café, wireless Internet and music," Lehrich said. "It’s going to be a very welcoming and healing environment.”

For the past four months, Lehrich and the physicians of Palmetto Primary Care Physicians have brought together more than 200 independent practitioners in the area to build an integrated health campus that he said will mimic the design of a Mayo Clinic or Cleveland Clinic.

“When I started looking at things, I realized how fragmented and disjointed the health care was here,” Lehrich said during an interview prior to the official announcement. “In this area right now, everyone has to go downtown to get care and go here and there. You have to do tests, and it’s complicated to get the results back to your physician.”

The physicians who will lease space on the campus will be required to be on the same electronic health record system. The online records will be updated in real time and at speeds of up to 100 times faster than the average Internet service because of where the medical campus will be located, Lehrich said.

Nexton will be the state’s first “gigabit” community with fiber optic Internet service running throughout the mixed-use development, which is being sold as the “most technologically advanced community in South Carolina.” The large bandwidth size will accommodate the data-rich files health care providers and other businesses will use.

Independent physicians from around the area have already agreed to move into the first tower, putting it at full capacity before the ground breaking, which is planned for April or May. The second tower to be built a few months later is more than 76% filled, Lehrich said.

“We’re estimating conservatively, once this campus is fully deployed, of creating 1,500 new jobs,” Lehrich said.

By Ashley Barker