CMC wants court to delay issuing certificate for Fort Mill hospital

Carolinas HealthCare System wants the S.C. Administrative Law Court to delay issuing a certificate of need to Piedmont Medical Center to build a Fort Mill hospital.

Carolinas HealthCare System, parent company of Carolinas Medical Center, says the appeals process should be concluded before a certificate is awarded. On Jan. 14, Carolinas HealthCare appealed Administrative Law Court Judge Phillip Lenski’s decision to give the certificate to PMC to the state Court of Appeals.

In a statement issued Friday, PMC officials said they were “disappointed for the people of Fort Mill that this latest legal maneuver will further require us to spend our time and resources in courtrooms while diverting our attention from this project. We remain committed to the people of Fort Mill and share in their frustration.”

Carolinas HealthCare and PMC have battled for nearly 10 years for the right to build a hospital in the Fort Mill area. Their efforts have played out mostly at the state Department of Health and Environmental Control, which issues certificates of need, and in court, which has twice ruled for Piedmont Medical Center and once for Carolinas HealthCare.

The two hospitals also have waged a public relations campaign to win over residents and potential patients.

Carolinas HealthCare filed a $1.5 million bond to ask the South Carolina Court of Appeals to review the case. The bond is the maximum amount payable by statute and tied to the estimated total cost of Piedmont’s Fort Mill project – $119,808,964.

Piedmont Medical Center plans to build a 100-bed hospital at the intersection of S.C. 160 and U.S. 21 Bypass. As proposed in 2010, PMC’s Fort Mill hospital would have all the services of a community hospital – general surgery, emergency department, labor and delivery and advanced imaging.

If the state appeals court affirms the decision to give Piedmont Medical Center the certificate of need, the bond would be awarded to PMC and the court could award PMC reasonable attorneys fees.

Carolinas HealthCare said the cash bond protects Piedmont from any damage that would be caused by delaying the certificate.

Carolinas HealthCare attorneys say “if a stay is not put in place, any victory on appeal by Carolinas will be ‘hollow’ if Piedmont has already built a hospital and eroded Carolinas market share and patient base.”

No date has been set for the S.C. Appeals Court to hear the case. Typically, the Administrative Law Court has taken 30 to 90 days to decide on Carolinas HealthCare’s request.

In its filing for a stay, Carolinas HealthCare attorneys outlined how they will argue their case before the state appeals court.

Carolinas HealthCare plans to argue that the Administrative Law Court:

• Violated the dormant commerce clause of the U.S. Constitution “with the express purpose of interfering with the interstate commerce arising from the outmigration of patients from South Carolina to North Carolina.”

• “Erroneously elevated” the importance of adverse impact on local healthcare providers, one of the factors specified in DHEC regulations.

• “Erroneously allowed and relied” on testimony of three Piedmont-affiliated physicians which CarolinasHealthCare had challenged, alleging they were improperly identified during the discovery phase of the trial.