Home Nonmilitary action Future uses investigated for Port Royal SC Naval Hospital

Future uses investigated for Port Royal SC Naval Hospital

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Beaufort Naval Hospital in Port Royal.

Beaufort Naval Hospital in Port Royal.

us navy

Local officials want a say in future uses of the 72-year-old Port Royal Naval Hospital if the Navy transfers its medical mission to new facilities currently underway in other locations, which seems likely.

Led by the Beaufort Regional Chamber of Commerce and local governments, a task force has been formed to study potential new uses for the 127-acre hospital property. The chamber has also hired a defense expert to help with this effort.

In April, the Navy announced that it was beginning a study on the construction of a $150 million state-of-the-art medical clinic at Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort.

This prompted local business and government leaders to convene the task force and hire the consultant to study future uses for the Naval Hospital, which an expert says is already underutilized.

Other army moves have also prompted local officials to get involved, said Zakary Payne, associate vice president of Matrix Design Group, the consultant hired by the chamber.

One is a second new clinic that is being considered at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, also located in Port Royal, Payne said.

And the Veterans Administration, Payne added, is buying land in northern Beaufort County where it could build a new clinic to serve Beaufort County veterans.

Currently, the Naval Hospital, which opened in 1949, provides general medical, surgical and emergency services to Marines at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island and Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort, in addition to their people at and retired military personnel, a total of about 35,000 people.

Local elected officials want a seat at the table

The Navy’s medical mission in Beaufort County isn’t changing, noted Ian Scott, president and CEO of the Beaufort Regional Chamber of Commerce, but “where they do it, where they execute that mission, is potentially changing. “.

The Navy did not say it planned to close the naval hospital.

With investments in new facilities, Scott said, “We have reason to start planning now to ensure we not only have a seat at the table, but can help steer the course for the future. .

If the property is found to be underutilized and deemed “surplus,” Scott said, the General Services Administration has a specific process to transfer ownership. Another federal agency would have the first crack on the property, he said, followed by local governments. It is possible that no transfer will be necessary if another military use is found for the property.

New facilities could mean the bulk of Naval Hospital operations will be handled elsewhere in the region for the next decade, Scott said. What is less clear is what will happen at the hospital in the future, and that is what the task force will address.

The task force — five voting members representing Port Royal, Beaufort, Beaufort County, the House and the House Military Enhancement Committee — will hold its first meeting later this month.

Members plan to provide recommendations on possible uses of the property to the Navy.

“We are facilitating a process for the community to identify the highest potential best use for the Naval Hospital that supports military missions in the region,” Scott said. “That’s the whole goal here.”

Naval Hospital Changes
Beaufort Naval Hospital in Port Royal. us navy

Local officials are trying to be proactive about what happens next on the main property abutting busy Ribaut Road and the Beaufort River, Scott said.

“We have all of the stakeholders all rowing in the same direction on this,” said Neal Pugliese, chairman of the house Military Enhancement Committee, noting that local and state governments and the state Congressional delegation are all on board.

The navy is in the early stages of identifying what to do with the naval hospital grounds, Pugliese said.

The Navy has been receptive to local feedback, Pugliese said. A Navy spokesman was not immediately available for comment.

Scott and Pugliese said potential “adaptive reuses” could be related to healthcare, education or cyber defense. If they provide employment opportunities for military spouses and support existing military missions, they said, they would likely be welcomed.

Similar criticisms occur elsewhere

What appears to be happening locally with military medical facilities is consistent with what is happening nationally, said Payne, the consultant.

A few years ago, the Department of Defense stopped providing health care to focus more on military readiness, Payne said. Part of the change is to provide outpatient care at outpatient surgical centers that are more accessible to the military while relying on non-military health care facilities for specialty and long-term care.

Scott views the investment in new medical facilities as a positive development. And influencing new use at the Naval Hospital, he said, is a business that would affect future generations.

It is so critical to the economy of this region to ensure the long-term success of all military missions,” Scott said.

A study 2022 According to the South Carolina Army Base Task Force, the military presence in Beaufort County accounts for approximately $2.2 billion in annual economic impact and 19,240 jobs. The economic impact of the hospital alone, he says, is $222 million a year.

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Port Royal officials would like to see better access to the ruins of historic Fort Frederick which is located on the grounds of Beaufort Naval Hospital. Jonathan Dyer/The Beaufort Gazette

The Naval Hospital, one of the few military installations recognized as a full military complex rather than a tenant of a larger command, includes living quarters, a Navy exchange retail store, gas station and mini market, softball courts, swimming pool, lighted tennis and basketball courts, outdoor fitness trail, gym, fishing pier and children’s playground.

In 2009, a $261 million proposal to rebuild the hospital was removed from a list of military projects to receive federal stimulus funds.

The city of Port Royal has been anticipating the closure of the hospital for years. In the past, local officials have said they would like to see more access to the complex, which includes the waterfront and Fort Frederick, a British fort built in 1735 to protect the area.

No Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) process is in place for the hospital. A BRAC, Scott noted, has not been authorized since 2005.

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Karl Puckett covers the town of Beaufort, the town of Port Royal and other communities north of the Broad River for The Beaufort Gazette and Island Packet. The Minnesota native has also worked at newspapers in his home state of Alaska, Wisconsin and Montana.