Judge clears way for April hearing in Fort Mill hospital case

Presbyterian, PMC contest Fort Mill hospital decision

dworthington@heraldonline.comJanuary 17, 2013 

Rendering of a Fort Mill hospital plan submitted by Carolinas HealthCare System.

PROVIDED — Provided

A South Carolina judge has denied a request to have the state’s health agency again review applications for a Fort Mill hospital, clearing the way for an April hearing.

Presbyterian Hospital had appealed the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control’s decision that Carolinas HealthCare System is best qualified to operate a new Fort Mill hospital.

Presbyterian alleged DHEC failed to comply with its own rules by not making findings required by law, did not adequately address indigent care or the quality of health care.

Presbyterian asked the court to send the issue back to DHEC, arguing those findings could only be made by the state agency.

Piedmont Medical Center, the third applicant for the Fort Mill hospital, agreed with Presbyterian’s arguments, but not its remedy. Piedmont asked the court to rule on those issues.

DHEC’s attorney argued the findings were considered in the analysis of applications from the three hospitals.

The hospitals and DHEC argued their points in October.

Administrative Law Court judge Phillip Lenski recently ruled that DHEC did address the issues raised by Presbyterian. If there are issues of fact, Lenski said the Administrative Law Court “serves as the finder of fact,” and that the court can consider additional evidence regarding any “issues DHEC considered during its analysis.”

Lenski noted that is has been seven years since the three hospitals originally filed certificate of need applications for the Fort Mill hospital.

In May 2006, DHEC awarded the hospital to Piedmont Medical Center. The other hospitals appealed, and in 2009 a judge sent the applications back to DHEC for review.

In September 2011, DHEC awarded the certificate of need to Carolinas HealthCare System.

In his decision, Lenski wrote that “the evidence in this case has been amply developed and it is time for this matter to be decided on its merits.” He added that it “would be unreasonable to delay the hearing on the merits any longer with another remand.”

The case is scheduled to start April 8, according to the clerk of the S.C. Administrative Law Court.

Don Worthington 803-329-4066

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