Court: 2 hospitals can be built in Berkeley County
A South Carolina Law Administrative Law Court ruling that Berkeley County can support two hospitals was announced Wednesday, and is a victory for Roper St. Francis Healthcare, which wants to build a hospital near Goose Creek.
The ruling is a setback for Trident Health System, which has planned to build a 50-bed facility in Moncks Corner, and has maintained that Berkeley County could not support two such facilities.
The two hospitals have been battling in the press and courts for more than three years. The ruling favors Roper St. Francis, which plans to move forward with construction on its long-awaited hospital in the Carnes Crossroads community in Goose Creek. The judgment upheld an earlier Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) decision allowing for two hospitals to be built in Berkeley County.
In the order provided by Judge John D. McLeod, the judge agreed with the DHEC decision.
“I find that Berkeley’s population size is well able to support two 50-bed hospitals,” McLeod said. “Trident’s position that both hospitals will financially fail if both are approved is inconsistent with Trident’s financials and its application.
“I find the overwhelming evidence admitted at trial proved that both hospitals are needed and both hospitals in Berkeley County will be financially successful.”
In a statement released after the ruling, Roper St. Francis reiterated its position about the Berkeley County market being able to support two hospitals.
“Roper St. Francis is very pleased that the court has upheld DHEC’s 2009 decision to allow both hospitals, but it is the residents of Berkeley County who have won,” said David Dunlap, president and CEO of Roper St. Francis Healthcare. “Roper St. Francis has fought hard for Berkeley County for more than three years on this issue. We have not wavered in the position that both hospitals, proposed for two different areas, are needed and would be supported.”
In a release Wednesday, Trident expressed its disappointment in the ruling.
“Under this scenario, Trident cannot build a hospital in Moncks Corner,” said Trident CEO Todd Gallati. “We do not want to be a part of a process which promotes unnecessary spending of healthcare dollars to duplicate services.”
Roper disagrees with Trident’s assessment and hopes both healthcare providers will put the legal wrangling behind them and get on with the process of building long overdue hospitals in Berkeley County.
“We hope that all sides will respect the court’s decision and that there will be no further legal delays in bringing a Roper St. Francis hospital to Carnes Crossroads and a hospital in Monck’s Corner as promised by Trident Health System,” Dunlap said. “Berkeley County continues to be one of the fastest growing counties in South Carolina, and is currently the largest county in the state without a hospital.
“It is time to put the legal fighting behind us, and move forward.”
As part of the legal process, Trident now has 10 days to reply to the decision by requesting a reconsideration if desired. According to Wednesday’s statement, Trident plans to appeal the ruling: “Trident will continue to work for what’s best for the residents of Berkeley County and intends to appeal the Administrative Law Court’s decision to a higher court.”
Dunlap expressed similar support for Berkeley County residents, citing 2011 figures stating Roper doctors and medical teams provided more than 70,000 medical treatments to Berkeley residents who came to a Roper hospital.
“They reached out to Roper St. Francis asking that we build a hospital closer to their homes,” Dunlap said. “We listened. Now we look forward to getting started on building the hospital they want and need.”