Beaufort Memorial CEO Russell Baxley signs the beam prior to its being lifted into place atop the new building. PAUL NURNBERG

Beaufort Memorial Hospital celebrated the completion of the steel structure for its three-story Okatie medical office building with a “topping off” ceremony Feb. 27 at the facility’s 19-acre site at 122 Okatie Center Boulevard North.

Construction of the 70,000-square-foot Okatie Medical Pavilion began in May 2019 and is scheduled to be completed in fall of 2020. Once open, it will provide residents of Southern Beaufort and Jasper counties more convenient access to a variety of medical services and specialties, from primary care to cancer treatment.

Following a long-standing builders’ tradition, those involved in the construction project – BMH administrators, members of the hospital’s Board of Trustees, physicians who will be working in the building and representatives from project manager Hammes Company, M.B. Kahn Construction and Novus Architects -signed the last beam to be installed atop the structure. A small tree and American flag were placed on the beam before it is hoisted to the top by a crane.

The topping off practice dates back to the ancient Scandinavian religious rite of placing a tree at the top of a new timber frame building to appease the tree-dwelling spirits displaced by its construction.

“This is a big milestone for us, marking our most significant increase in health care services south of the Broad,” said Beaufort Memorial Hospital President and CEO Russell Baxley. “This facility will help ease the demand for medical services in an area that has experienced a huge influx of new residents.”

The complex, which will replace Beaufort Memorial’s existing multispecialty offices in Westbury Park, will offer full-time primary care, a walk-in clinic, OB-GYN and orthopaedics practices, as well as appointments with specialists in cardiology, gastroenterology, general surgery, vascular surgery and neurology. Subspecialists from MUSC Health also will provide in-person and telemedicine consultations.

A medical mall of sorts, it also will include outpatient rehabilitation, laboratory and imaging services, a breast health center and Beaufort Memorial’s second full-service cancer center. A partnership with MUSC Health and Alliance Oncology, the cancer center will be equipped to provide radiation and medical oncology, chemotherapy and infusion services.

Along with the Okatie Medical Pavilion, plans are in the works to build a $44 million micro hospital – the first of its kind in South Carolina – on 13 acres near the corner of Buckwalter and Bluffton parkways. A joint venture between BMH and MUSC Health, the medical facility will include a 15-bed emergency room and 20 beds for acute care with a variety of service lines, including orthopaedics, cardiology and general surgery as well as lab and imaging.