For a rather small community, Florence is fortunate to be served by two large hospital systems. Carolinas Hospital System and McLeod Regional Medical Center offer a combined 848 beds for patients, making Florence a hub for medical care in northeastern South Carolina.
In fact, McLeod Health is the largest employer in Florence County, Carolinas Hospital System is the third-largest, and health care has emerged as the fastest-growing sector of the local economy.
“I’d say that 99 percent of medical conditions in Florence can be treated right here at these community hospitals,” says Jim O’Loughlin, chief executive officer of Carolinas Hospital System. “The care that patients receive in Florence rivals the care offered by hospitals in big cities. Our advancements in medicine are incredible.” At Carolinas Hospital System, one of the latest advancements is a da Vinci robotic surgical system, which helps physicians perform cardiac and prostate surgeries. The robotic system is less invasive than previous surgical techniques.
“For example, for heart-valve replacement, it used to be that a large incision had to be cut along the chest sternum in order to get at the heart,” O’Loughlin says. “Now, with robotic surgery, there is basically only a one-inch incision.
The less invasive surgery quickens the recovery time, reduces blood loss and the need for transfusions, and produces less scarring. In addition, the smaller incision means there is less chance for infection.”
Overall, Carolinas has just completed a two-year, $25 million expansion and renovation project at its modern Florence campus, which dates from 1998. Expansion also is a key word these days at McLeod Regional Medical Center, with an $82 million renovation project winding down. It includes a seven-floor addition to the existing McLeod Pavilion, housing 16 new surgical suites. McLeod Pavilion began with five floors and with the new construction has 12.
“For our surgical suites, we sent a team to UCLA to study their operating rooms that are equipped for tomorrow,” says Robert L. Colones, president and chief executive officer of McLeod Health. “Those high-tech rooms are what we will now have once the expansion to the McLeod Pavilion is completed. The technology will include video conferencing that can transmit camera images from inside the body during minimally invasive surgeries. It’s incredible.”
McLeod Regional Medical Center, which was recognized by U.S. News & World Report in July 2005 as one of America’s best hospitals, is scheduled to complete its expansion project in December 2006. That date is significant, because Dr. F.H. McLeod opened the medical facility a century ago in 1906. The medical center is now so expansive that a stretch of East Cheves Street through the campus is known as the Medical Mile. “We have garnered numerous national and state awards for our quality and safety, and our medical mission is physician-driven, data-recorded and evidence-based,” Colones says. “But it is really our people – who place their time, skills and hearts into their work each day at McLeod – who truly make the difference in the lives we serve.”