Ruling paves the way for 2 hospitals in Berkeley County

(Joe O'Neill/WCIV)

MONCKS CORNER, S.C. (WCIV) -- A judge's ruling Wednesday paves the way for two hospitals to be built in Berkeley County.

A judge with the state's Administrative Law Court upheld an earlier decision by the state Department of Health and Environmental Control that said two hospitals could be built in the county.

At issue was whether two rural hospitals could survive there.

In a prepared statement, Trident Health argued the scenario of two hospitals in the county would provide for duplicate services.

"Under this scenario, Trident cannot build a hospital in Moncks Corner. We do not want to be part of a process which promotes unnecessary spending of health care dollars to duplicate services," said Todd Gallati, Trident Health president and CEO.

Both Trident and Roper St. Francis Healthcare planned to build hospitals with 50 beds in Berkeley County.

"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. "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."

Trident officials released the following statement:

Trident remains confident that a new hospital located in Moncks Corner, which is far more accessible to the medically underserved residents of Northern and Eastern Berkeley County than Roper's proposed hospital in Goose Creek, should have been the only hospital approved under DHEC's guidelines. Currently, a significant portion of Berkeley County's population must drive more than 30 minutes to the nearest hospital. Trident's proposed hospital in Moncks Corner would have given the residents of Northern and Eastern Berkeley County better, closer access to hospital based services.{} Roper's proposed facility in Goose Creek will simply duplicate the existing hospital services already provided by Trident Medical Center and Summerville Medical Center, both of which are located in proximity to Goose Creek.{} Trident Health showed at the administrative hearing how Roper's newly opened hospital in Mt. Pleasant duplicated hospital services in that community, resulting in two significantly under-utilized facilities.{} Trident firmly believes that the same would happen in Berkeley County if both hospitals are permitted to open.{} Underutilized, duplicative hospitals often result in increased operating costs, which are generally passed along to the patient.

More than 50% of the Berkeley County residents who sought inpatient care in 2011 chose a Trident affiliated hospital for their care. 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.

"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."