Columbia-HCA is considering purchasing 20 acres in St. George to build a 100-bed medical center.

The facility would compete with Intermountain Health Care's Dixie Regional Medical Center.First the national corporation must get the zoning changed on the land, said Kent Tarbet, chief financial officer for Columbia's new Timpanogos Regional Hospital in Orem and the chain's other Utah operations.

The site is north of the Bloomington exit of I-15.

"You've got a one-hospital town and Dixie Regional Medical Center is full," said Tarbet, who worked at Dixie Regional before being hired by Columbia.

The chain also plans to eventually open a hospital in Logan, another city in which IHC owns the only medical center.

"We're looking at (becoming) a statewide network," Tarbet said.

The St. George venture would give Columbia nine hospitals in Utah, half the number of those owned by IHC. Paracelsus Health-care owns five hospitals along the Wasatch Front.

IHC spokesman Daron Cowley said Dixie Regional is busy, "but we're not turning people away."

He said IHC recently opened a new primary care clinic in St. George to help handle patient demands.

"We welcome competition," Cowley said.