Aiken council rejects plan to open medical complex

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AIKEN --- It seemed like a good idea for University Hospital to build a 72,000-square-foot medical office complex in Aiken.

"Twenty percent of our patients come from Aiken," said Rebecca Sylvester, a hospital spokeswoman. "Obviously, Aiken County is a place we feel we need to be."

The hospital planned to lease office space to any doctor who was interested and possibly include space for imaging and labs. The complex on Silver Bluff Road across from Centre South Shopping Center would have included three buildings.

But the Aiken City Council -- citing traffic and neighborhood concerns -- voted against the plan Monday night.

Now the hospital is holding 7.5 acres it purchased for $2.4 million in August, before plans were brought before the Planning Commission or the city council for approval.

In December, the Planning Commission unanimously approved the concept plan, and the city council had approved it on first reading.

But University Hospital faced intense opposition from executives and employees of Aiken Regional Medical Centers, who viewed the plans as an encroachment on health care in Aiken that would have a negative economic impact on the community and would harm Aiken Regional.

Most who spoke against the office building at Monday's standing-room-only city council meeting are affiliated with Aiken Regional.

With 20 percent of University Hospital's patients living in Aiken County, Ms. Sylvester said, having an office in the area would allow those patients more convenient access to their doctors. She said the hospital was not attempting to siphon off patients.

Some were not convinced.

"The long-term viability of this hospital (Aiken Regional) is at risk," said Sam Kelly, a board member of the Aiken hospital.

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curly123053 01/28/09 - 10:47 am
I see Aiken Regional is being

I see Aiken Regional is being assisted by the Aiken City Council in maintaining a monopoly over the healthcare system of Aiken. There are a lot more benefits to having a facility of this kind in this area than putting up another strip mall that is NOT needed. But, I guarantee you if it WAS a strip mall that was petitioning to be built here it would have passed with flying colors. If the people of Aiken Regional are scared of some competition that tells me right there that something is wrong. Aiken and the surrounding area can support another healthcare provider in the Aiken area. I see the free market does not exist in Aiken where healthcare is concerned. I will continue going across the river to Augusta for my healthcare as I have been doing anyways.

curly123053 01/28/09 - 10:58 am
A couple of good examples of

A couple of good examples of this would be if Target decided to build a Target Super Store somewhere along Richland Avenue, and Walmart complained saying this would be detrimental to our business.
Or, if Bilo wanted to build a Super Store in Aiken and Kroger coming up and saying this would hurt our business. What would the Aiken City Council say about these cases. It is the same situation here but it involves healthcare. Competition can be good and it is a shame the City Council did what they did. It does not matter where this facility was planned as it would have had the same response from Aiken Regional. This shows me that University IS needed in the Aiken area. I say sell the land and pick a site in the county portion and go from there.

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