Legal battle puts hospital plans on hold in Berkeley County

By Eric

SUMMERVILLE, S.C. (WCIV) -- A call for better healthcare in Berkeley County has been put on hold.

Since 2009, several Berkeley County communities have called for a new hospital in their neighborhood. But an ongoing legal battle between Roper St. Francis and Trident Health Systems has kept one from being built.

In big numbers Monday, a Del Webb community in Cane Bay pressed Roper hospital officials why they're no closer to constructing a new hospital.

"It may take 24 months," asked one community member. "There may be some of us that won't be here in 24 months. It's not about chasing a buck, it's about our health."

A new hospital could be further away than that, closer to five years. An appeal filed by Trident in November blocked a new Roper facility at Carnes Crossroads.

"We're a 55 and older community. I would probably say the average age is about 65," said J.R. Vanvechten, a Del Webb member. "So we're really concerned about healthcare in this area. It's just that we want a hospital."

Roper has filed its share of appeals blocking Trident too; both have made several motions against each other in recent years.

Though Roper said its desire is to build a 50-bed community hospital, and doesn't mind if Trident builds one of its own. A judge ruled last September the county can sustain both.

"Berkeley County continues to grow at a very rapid rate. It deserves the level of healthcare services that both of these hospitals would provide to Berkeley County," said Doug Bowling, Roper's chief strategy officer.

Bowling also said the hospital would be well equipped with operating and emergency centers, an intensive care unit and will handle surgical procedures.

But Trident argues the 100-bed hospital it has in the works in Moncks Corner is the only kind that can adequately serve the county. According to Trident, Roper's hospital will be unable to treat certain patients.

"If it's critical like a heart attack or a stroke and you need to get to a hospital in a timely manner, you're not going to be able to get that level of care in a 50-bed hospital that's next to Del Webb -- you're just not," said Trident Health CEO, Todd Gallati.

Berkeley County remains the biggest county in the state with no hospital.

Trident's latest filing with the state court of appeals is expected to be heard this year, but no date has been set. Trident had a similar town hall meeting with Del Webb residents last December.