Testimony ends in Fort Mill hospital trial

Dworthington@heraldlonline.comMay 8, 2013 

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Who gets to build a new Fort Mill hospital is in the hands of an S.C. Administrative Law Court judge.

His decision is not expected until August or early September.

Attorneys for Piedmont Medical Center and Carolinas HealthCare System finished their arguments Tuesday, ending four weeks of deliberations before Judge Phillip Lenski at the Edgar A. Brown Building in Columbia.

Lenski was hearing Piedmont’s appeal of a state Department of Health and Environmental Control decision in September 2011 to award the certificate of need for a Fort Mill hospital to Carolinas HealthCare.

It’s the second time the issue has been before the Administrative Law Court. In May 2006, DHEC awarded the certificate to Piedmont Medical Center. Carolinas HealthCare and Presbyterian Hospital successfully appealed that decision.

Presbyterian had appealed the September 2011 decision but withdrew shortly before the recent trial began.

During the trial, attorneys for Piedmont Medical Center argued a Fort Mill hospital operated by Carolinas HealthCare would financially harm PMC and York County physicians. Adverse economic impact was one of the criteria DHEC could consider in reviewing certificate-of-need applications.

They also argued PMC’s plans for a 100-bed Fort Mill hospital was the right size to meet the demands of residents of northern York County. The hospital could be expanded to as many as 250 beds as the population increased in northern York County, they said.

Attorneys for Carolinas HealthCare argued CMC-Fort Mill would not economically harm PMC because northern York County residents are already getting health care from CHS.

CMC-Fort Mill would allow them to get basic health care closer to home for northern York County residents, the attorneys said.

The attorneys, and CHS witnesses, also argued that DHEC reached the proper conclusions when it determined CHS “most fully complied” with state health plan and project review criteria.

There also was much debate over charity care. CHS said charity care at CMC-Fort Mill would be about 6.3 percent – more than twice the percentage Piedmont estimated for its Fort Mill facility.

Now that the testimony has finished a court transcript is being prepared. Transcription will likely take between two to three weeks, said court officials.

Attorneys for each hospital will then get a trial transcript and have 45 days to review it and file any additional requests with the judge.

Once any additional requests are filed, Judge Lenski will review them and issue his decision which could come in August or early September.

Lenski’s decision is appealable to the S.C. Court of Appeals.

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