On October 4, Roper St. Francis Healthcare opened a brand-new boutique hospital, bringing hometown healthcare to Berkeley County
Written by Lauren Johnson
Photography by Scott Henderson
In 1923, Maude Callen set out to bring healthcare to the residents of rural Berkeley County who otherwise couldn’t access it. For some 60 years, the nurse-midwife delivered hundreds of babies, set broken bones, administered shots and educated midwifery students in makeshift clinics and homes. Nearly a century later, on the aptly named Callen Boulevard, Roper St. Francis Healthcare opened doors on a state-of-the-art hospital poised to deliver the same sort of personalized, hyper-local care—along with all the innovations that current-day medicine and technology have to offer.
Forty-five years have passed since Berkeley County had a hospital to call its own. In the time since, the population has more than tripled, reaching more than 221,000 in 2018, according to the latest estimate from the U.S. Census Bureau. One of the fastest growing regions of the Lowcountry, the area has drawn multinational businesses such as Volvo, Boeing and Bosch, as well as large housing developments including Carnes Crossroads, Nexton and Cane Bay. “People who live in this community want and deserve healthcare in this community,” says Dr. Mitchell Siegan, chief medical officer of the new Roper St. Francis Berkeley Hospital.
The $119-million facility completes the square of hospitals that Roper St. Francis has situated in four corners of the Lowcountry: downtown, West Ashley, Mount Pleasant and now Summerville. “Technically, we’re in the exact spot where Summerville, Goose Creek and Moncks Corner come together,” explains chief nursing officer Jennifer Crawford, who envisions serving patients from all three towns as well as St. Stephen, Bonneau, Cross, Holly Hill and surrounding areas. As a Goose Creek resident and 23-year employee of Roper St. Francis, Crawford knows all too well that the drive from Berkeley County to the existing hospitals might take 30 minutes to an hour, depending on traffic. Now, locals can easily reach Roper St. Francis Berkeley Hospital in a matter of minutes, which can mean life or death in a medical emergency. “Our goal was to bring our care to the community instead of the community coming to our care,” Crawford emphasizes.
Maude Callen is remembered as a local who tirelessly delivered compassionate healthcare to her fellow locals; her legacy will live on inside Roper St. Francis Berkeley Hospital, where every staff member resides in the area. “Everyone is so proud to be able to care for their community members,” says Crawford. “These are our friends, family and neighbors.”
With a minimal staff-to-patient ratio, Roper St. Francis Berkeley Hospital was designed to facilitate a white-glove experience. “We have the ability to give our patients more one-on-one attention, which improves the quality and safety of our care,” says Crawford. Hospital administrators plan to implement a number of forward-thinking tactics, including the use of a hospitalist system, face-to-face pharmacist consultations and virtual health services.
“Roper St. Francis Berkeley Hospital will be the first in our system to have a hospitalist on site to admit just about every patient outside of labor and delivery,” says Dr. Siegan. A hospitalist, he explains, is a doctor responsible for overseeing each patient’s medical team, including any specialists, in order to provide streamlined continuous care. The doctor gathers a patient’s medical history, conducts a full physical exam, orders any necessary labs or diagnostics, establishes a diagnosis then develops a treatment plan. “When a hospitalist gets involved, the number of unnecessary tests is reduced, a patient’s length of stay decreases, costs go down and outcomes are optimized,” Dr. Siegan says.
Prior to discharge, patients of Roper St. Francis Berkeley Hospital can review their medications with an on-site pharmacist. “People often leave the hospital on a number of new medications with complex names,” explains Dr. Siegan. “These face-to-face meetings help ensure patients are properly educated on their prescriptions—including when and how to take them—as well as any changes or implications the new drugs may have on medications they’re currently taking.” Coordination between in-hospital and post-discharge care is an emerging national trend, and Roper St. Francis Berkeley Hospital will be one of the first in the Lowcountry to embrace the concierge-style approach, says Dr. Siegan.
Reflecting another nationwide trend, the new facility is also equipped with a virtual care system that gives patients access to medical evaluations from off-site doctors and specialists by way of a mobile cart with a high-definition screen and two-way audio. “Right next to a video feed of the patient, a doctor can remotely pull up labs and charts, view medical history, ask questions, zoom in on body parts and use tools like a Bluetooth stethoscope to listen to internal sounds,” explains Crawford. If, for example, a patient developed a rare infection, his medical team could conduct a virtual consultation with an infectious disease expert rather than waiting for that doctor to travel to the hospital. And, she adds, starting an antibiotic 30 minutes sooner can sometimes be critical to a patient’s outcome. Virtual health is supplemental to in-person care, Dr. Siegan notes. ”There is always a care provider bedside with the patient—virtual care simply adds expedited specialized care that wouldn’t otherwise be available.”
The facility was designed to have zero wasted space. It packs a 24-hour emergency room, imaging department, lab, birthing suites and intensive-care unit into 116,000 square feet (that’s about the size of two football fields). “We put our services in better proximity to one another, improving the workflow and reducing the distance of commonly traveled routes for medical providers and patients,” explains Kenneth Hill, director of construction and safety for Roper St. Francis.
On the first floor, a 15-bay emergency department includes a separate entrance and dedicated ambulance access, allowing patients in crisis quick admittance without being slowed by general hospital-goers. Two triage rooms also help to fast track those with life-threatening conditions, and four ground-level operating rooms provide space for both inpatient and outpatient surgeries. The two larger operating rooms are equipped with da Vinci Surgical Systems, on which surgeons can perform minimally invasive robotic surgeries, which studies show yield faster recovery times and shorter hospital stays.
The operating rooms connect to pre- and post-op rooms where patients prep for and recover from surgeries and anesthesia. Situated adjacent to the emergency department, the state-of-the-art lab and imaging department gives immediate access to CT and MRI scans, in addition to nuclear medicine, X-rays, mammograms and ultrasounds. And to ensure swift access to medications, the pharmacy is located right next door.
Women’s services are located on the second floor inside a locked unit for infant safety. The unit holds four labor suites, two operating rooms dedicated to Cesarean sections, 16 postpartum rooms and three triage rooms, where OB/GYNs can determine if a woman is truly in labor. (Click here for more on the labor and delivery department.)
The hospital’s third and top floor holds 22 private rooms for patients receiving routine medical or surgical services in cardiology, oncology, gastroenterology, urology or orthopedics. It also houses a six-bed intensive-care unit, as well as two step-down rooms for those that require closer observation before returning home.
Bottom to top, the facility includes 50 beds, but that number could grow to 80, 120 or even 196, depending on what services are most in demand and what the community needs. “Roper St. Francis Berkeley Hospital has been designed with growth in mind,” says Hill, noting that the existing facility can be expanded vertically with a patient tower or horizontally with additional support services.
For efficiency, patient comfort and patient health, the hospital’s inner mechanisms are kept behind the scenes. Doors leading to equipment and medical rooms (which are opened and closed all night long) are located along interior halls so as not to disturb resting patients, whose rooms are situated along the periphery. Passing directly through this operational center, a primary staff-and-patient elevator separate from the visitor elevator connects the OR, labor rooms and ICU. “Patients being transported from room to room won’t share the same spaces with visitors, which helps protect those with weakened immune systems.”
In addition to streamlined processes and advanced technologies, the facility has been developed with overall well being in mind. “Research shows that soothing colors and natural light can yield positive patient outcomes,” says Crawford. Tapping into that science, patient rooms have floor-to-ceiling windows and a neutral color palette of blue and taupe, plus private bathrooms.
On each floor, waiting rooms feature glass exterior walls that look out onto expansive green space—exposure to which research shows can be a benefit to both mental and physical health. Art and photographs connected to Summerville, Moncks Corner and Goose Creek hang in the first-floor lobby, and, nearby, a chapel offers a place for quiet reflection and features a marsh grass window overlay, further tying the facility to its environs.
From welcoming a baby into the world to undergoing life-saving surgery, many of life’s major moments happen within a hospital setting. “We’ve focused on creating a soothing, safe environment for our neighbors—no matter what life event brings them here,” says Crawford.
On-Site Specialized Care
Over the past five years, Roper St. Francis has established a primary care network as well as urgent care offices throughout Summerville. Prior to the opening of Roper St. Francis Berkeley Hospital, an 80,000-square-foot medical office building was constructed on the campus to house specialty care doctors in orthopaedics, urology, obstetrics and gynecology, cardiothoracic surgery, general surgery and breast surgery—all of whom can now refer patients to the hospital right next door.
Photographs (Dr. Siegan) by Mary Martin Harper; (Jennifer Crawford) by Andy Lyons; & (Maude Callen) Courtesy of the Library of Medicine