CHS, PMC clash on urgent care center

Carolinas Healthcare System and Rock Hill rival Piedmont Medical Center again are squabbling over medical facilities in the Fort Mill area. This time, an urgent care center is at the center of the tussle.

Details of the controversy between the two companies are confusing and follow a long history of competition between the pair. Here's an overview of the latest rift:

• In December, Charlotte-based CHS announced plans to build a medical office building on Gold Hill Road, near Interstate 77. It would house doctor's offices and an urgent care center, a facility similar to an emergency room to treat minor illnesses and injuries, CHS said at the time.

• Before building the facility, CHS first had to obtain approval from the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control. DHEC must approve any new medical facilities, including hospitals and urgent care centers, a DHEC spokesman said.

• CHS, parent company of Carolinas Medical Center, received permission from DHEC to build a medical office building at the site but has yet to seek permission for an urgent care center, the hospital said.

• A CHS urgent care center on Gold Hill Road could be perceived as an attempt to enter Piedmont territory. PMC already operates an urgent care center at nearby Baxter Village. In 2006, Piedmont won approval from DHEC to build Fort Mill's first hospital, edging bids by CHS, Presbyterian Hospital and Hospital Partners of America.

• Because it appeared CHS might attempt to build an urgent care center in its backyard, PMC appealed DHEC's decision. But because DHEC's approval only extended to an office building, PMC's urgent care appeal was denied.

PMC: Denial not a loss

Piedmont CEO Charlie Miller said the appeal's denial was not a loss for PMC because it successfully pointed out that CHS has not been approved for an urgent care center in Fort Mill.

"They had allowed the impression that they were building an urgent care center to take place. That's what we were appealing," Miller told The Herald last week. "What we wanted the state to do is basically clarify that this is going to be nothing more than physicians' office space."

A Dec. 19, 2007, letter from CHS to DHEC states the Charlotte hospital is not seeking approval for an urgent care center, only office space.

CHS: Urgent care still possible

A non-specific sign at Carolinas Medical Center's site near Gold Hill Road advertises that CMC is coming soon. But CMC spokesman Kevin McCarthy on Friday said he doesn't know why it was originally reported that an urgent care center was part of the plan. However, he left the door open for an urgent care center in the future.

"We're looking at a number of things for that space. We haven't finalized anything yet," he said. "At some point, if an urgent care center is something we deem necessary in that area, we'll go through the proper approval process."

The 40,000-square-foot, two-story medical office building will cost about $10 million, CHS officials said. The new building, which will house women's care and a family practice among its offices, is expected to open in December. CHS officials said the offices are needed to serve York County residents that travel to Charlotte for medical care.

A long history

The rift between Piedmont Medical Center and Carolinas Healthcare System is the latest skirmish over medical facilities in Fort Mill.

Two years ago, CHS was one of four companies that submitted proposals for a new York County hospital based in Fort Mill. DHEC chose Piedmont Medical Center for the Fort Mill hospital, but CHS and Presbyterian Hospital appealed the decision. The appeal is scheduled to be heard by the S.C. Administrative Law Court next summer.