The Herald: Move on with Fort Mill hospital

February 2, 2013 

The decision regarding which health care group should be allowed to build and run a new Fort Mill hospital was destined to please some, dismay others, no matter which of the three applicants was chosen. Now it’s time to proceed with the process so that construction can begin.

Earlier this month, a South Carolina judge denied a request to have the state’s health agency again review applications for the new Fort Mill hospital. That apparently has cleared the way for a hearing on the merits of the decision scheduled to begin April 8.

It is somewhat shocking to reflect that seven years have passed since three area hospitals originally filed certificate of need applications to the state Department of Health and Environmental Control to oversee development of the new hospital. In May 2006, DHEC tapped Piedmont Medical Center.

But the two other applicants – Presbyterian Hospital and Carolinas HealthCare System, both of Charlotte – appealed the decision, and in 2009 a judge sent the applications back to DHEC for review. And, in September 2011, DHEC changed its ruling and awarded the certificate of need to Carolinas Healthcare System.

Presbyterian, however, recently appealed that decision to the state Administrative Law Court, alleging the DHEC failed to comply with its own rules by not making findings required by law. DHEC also did not adequately address indigent health care or the quality of health care, said Presbyterian officials.

But Judge Phillip Lenski essentially said, enough is enough. He said the court serves as “finder of fact” and that the court can consider additional evidence considered by DHEC during its analysis.

He added it “would be unreasonable to delay the hearing on the merits any longer with another remand,” which would have sent the issue back to DHEC. While we don’t claim the legal expertise to understand all the details involved in the judge’s action, we welcome his desire to move on with the hearing and resolve this case.

We appreciate the desire of each of the hospital groups to address all the issues involved in this decision and to exhaust every legal means at their disposal to earn the certificate of need. But the fast-growing area that would be served by the new hospital has been waiting for seven years for a final decision.

And many more months will pass before the new facility is up and running.

Judge Lenski’s ruling that ample time and consideration have been devoted to choosing a hospital group to run the new hospital seems reasonable. We’re sure that many residents in the Fort Mill area will join us in saying, let’s get on with it.

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