PMC wants Carolinas HealthCare barred from Fort Mill hospital process

dworthington@heraldonline.comApril 2, 2013 

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

PROVIDED — Provided

  • Fort Mill hospital timeline

    1999: The idea of a hospital in northern York County is broached because of the area’s increasing population.

    2005: Piedmont, Carolinas HealthCare System and Presbyterian file certificate-of-need (CON) applications for a 64-bed hospital in York County. Piedmont amends its application to propose a 100-bed facility, moving some beds from Piedmont’s Rock Hill location.

    May 2006: DHEC awards Piedmont a CON for a Fort Mill hospital. CHS and Presbyterian appeal.

    February 2009: Presbyterian files motion to dismiss, or in the alternate, a motion for summary judgment, alleging that CHS does not have “standing” to apply for a CON under South Carolina law.

    March 2009: Judge Carolyn Matthews denies Presbyterian’s motions.

    September 2009: Appeals heard by the S.C. Administrative Law Court.

    CHS and Presbyterian file motions for summary judgment, arguing that DHEC misinterpreted the state health plan to exclude them.

    December 2009: Judge Carolyn Matthews rules that DHEC misinterpreted the plan, granting CHS and Presbyterian motions for summary judgment and sending the CON application process back to DHEC.

    January 2010: Piedmont asks Matthews to reconsider her decision. The court denies that motion. Piedmont and Presbyterian appeal.

    April 2010: The S.C. Supreme Court rules that the case is not a “final decision,” and the matter is sent back to DHEC, pursuant to Matthews’ order.

    September 2011: DHEC awards CON for Fort Mill hospital to Carolinas HealthCare System.

    November 2011: Piedmont and Presbyterian appeal decision to S.C. Administrative Law Court.

    October 2012: Piedmont and Presbyterian file summary motions. Presbyterian asks that the case be remanded to DHEC to consider indigent care and quality of care.

    January 2013: Motions for summary judgment filed by Presbyterian and Piedmont denied.

    February 2013: Presbyterian withdraws from case.

    March 2013: Piedmont files motion for summary judgment.

    April 8: Trial set to begin before S.C Administration Law Court Judge Phillip Lenski.

    SOURCES: The Herald; documents filed with the S.C. Administrative Law Court

— Piedmont Medical Center wants a South Carolina judge to rule that a North Carolina law bars a Charlotte-based health care system from building a hospital in Fort Mill.

Piedmont, has filed a motion of summary judgment with the S.C. Administrative Law Court. Tuesday was the deadline for motions.

A trial over the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control’s decision to award a certificate of need for the Fort Mill hospital to Carolinas HealthCare System starts Monday.

DHEC awarded the certificate of need to Charlotte-based system for a $77.5 million, 64-bed facility in September 2011. Initially, DHEC awarded the certificate to Piedmont in 2006, but that decision was appealed successfully.

Piedmont’s motion asks an administrative law court judge to bar Carolinas HealthCare System from the certificate-of-need process, making Piedmont the sole remaining applicant. Charlotte’s Presbyterian Hospital withdrew its application in February.

Piedmont bases its argument on North Carolina’s 1943 Hospital Authorities Act. The city of Charlotte created the Charlotte Memorial Hospital Authority in 1943, which is now the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Hospital Authority. The authority, operating as Carolinas HealthCare System, is the largest health care system in the Carolinas.

Piedmont argues that the act specifies what the authority can do in and out of state and that the system is prohibited from building a hospital outside of North Carolina.

In its motion, Piedmont’s attorney said the authority is “powerless to perform its governmental functions” outside of North Carolina and “if the act is read in conjunction with the N.C. Constitution, it is clear that the Hospital Authority is given the authority to act to the benefit of N.C. residents.”

The law firm Nelson Mullins is representing Piedmont.

In its response, Carolinas HealthCare argues that constructing a Fort Mill hospital fulfills the requirements of the North Carolina hospital act and the South Carolina health plan.

“The North Carolina-South Carolina border is not the Berlin wall,” attorneys representing Carolinas HealthCare wrote. Thousands of residents cross the border daily to work and live, they wrote.

The law firm Moore & Van Allen is representing Carolinas HealthCare.

Attorneys for Moore & Van Allen also argue that the issue raised by Piedmont has been decided by a South Carolina administrative law court judge.

Presbyterian raised the same issue in 2009, and in March of that year, Judge Carolyn Matthews ruled that Carolinas HealthCare had “substantial presence” in South Carolina and that if she were to interpret North Carolina law, it appeared to give the system “broad enough corporate powers to operate in the state.”

Carolinas HealthCare System also argued that Piedmont should be barred from its motion for summary judgment because the two share radiation therapy centers in York and Lancaster counties.

Finally, Carolinas HealthCare System argues that Piedmont should be barred from making its argument because it has not raised the question in the eight years this case has been before the court. Issues that can be heard at a contested certificate of need case “are limited to those presented or considered during staff review,” wrote Carolina HealthCare attorneys.

The battle over who gets to build the Fort Mill hospital has been in the court since 2006, when Presbyterian and Carolinas challenged DHEC’s decision to award the hospital to Piedmont.

All of the litigants have filed motions of summary judgments at some time during the case.

A motion for summary judgment usually asks a judge to decide whether an issue, or the whole case, can be decided without requiring a trial.

Throughout the debate Carolinas has argued that it already serves many of the area residents through its Pineville, N.C., hospital and offices in the York County.

Presbyterian had argued that it would bring competition to York County.

Piedmont has argued that it is best positioned to serve residents of northern York County because it is a local hospital, and it would be financially harmed if another hospital is chosen to build the Fort Mill facility.

The state’s certificate of need process lists 33 criteria to evaluate applications. In a 2006 letter to applicants, DHEC listed the project review criteria it considered most important. The criteria were included in a June 29, 2012, summary handout about each applicant’s submissions.

The highest priority for the Fort Mill hospital is compliance with the state health plan, which states that York County needs 64 more hospital beds.

In awarding the certificate of needs to Carolinas HealthCare, DHEC said the applicant “best met” the project review criteria for community need, accessibility, projected revenue, net income, financial feasibility, cost containment, the record of the applicant and the effects on existing facilities.

Don Worthington •  803-329-4066

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