Fort Mill Times

One group still vying for a Fort Mill hospital is changing. Will it impact the pick?

Piedmont Medical Center won a certificate of need, a state health department requirement, to build its Fort Mill hospital in 2006.
Piedmont Medical Center won a certificate of need, a state health department requirement, to build its Fort Mill hospital in 2006. Fort Mill Times file photo

One of the major players in the Fort Mill hospital saga is changing names and looking to merge. Moves that shouldn’t impact which healthcare system gets to build in Fort Mill.

Carolinas HealthCare System recently changed its name to Atrium Health. In a separate announcement, Atrium stated it had a letter of intent signed with Georgia-based Navicent Health to “allow for more detailed discussions” on how Navicent will become part of Atrium.

Dr. Ninfa Saunders, president and CEO of Navicent, called it “the first major partnership of its type in the Southeast region” combining groups serving from North Carolina to south Georgia.

“Our ability to provide high level services to improve the health of communities is only possible with support from our community, physicians, employees and partners,” Saunders said. “We are excited to find a partner that shares in our vision for the future of health.”

What shouldn’t be impacted by either of the latest moves, the name change or possible merger, is whether Atrium gets to build a hospital in Fort Mill.

“Our letter of intent with Navicent is not connected to the Fort Mill Certificate Of Need case,” said Atrium spokesperson Teri Porter.

Piedmont Medical Center was awarded a CON, a state health department requirement, to build its Fort Mill hospital in 2006. Carolinas HealthCare and Novant Health, having also applied to build a hospital, appealed. A judge re-opened the application process, and in 2011 Carolinas HealthCare won the certificate of need with a $77.5 million, 64-bed proposal. Piedmont and Novant appealed, though Novant later withdrew.

In 2014, a judge overturned the 2011 decision in favor of Piedmont’s plan for a $120 million, 100-bed hospital. It would offer an emergency room and create about 400 jobs, according to reports at the time.

Just last year, the state court of appeals again ruled for Piedmont. On April 21, 2017, Carolinas HealthCare filed the latest appeal. The case could come before the state supreme court.

Tim Kelly, spokesperson for the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control, which operates the CON program, confirmed the merger wouldn’t impact the appeal.

“A change in ownership — which such a merger might entail — would have no effect on the Certificate of Need,” Kelly said.

Daisy Burroughs, spokesperson for Piedmont, said the focus of her group remains on the state supreme court case and not any announced changes.

“We are awaiting the decision from the supreme court about this case to determine next steps,” she said.

The Certificate of Need program lists 60 projects under review, or at some stage of acceptance, in the past year. Another 13 projects are allowed by exemption, meaning they don’t need a certificate of need. One was the replacement of a dozen year old CT scanner at Piedmont with a new one, at a little more than $1 million, granted in January.

Both a $15.2 million freestanding emergency department from Piedmont and the 64-bed hospital from Atrium, still listed as Carolinas Medical Center, sit among a list of 20 projects under appeal.

Atrium still believes the appeal process can work in its favor.

As for the name change to Atrium, Porter said it “does not impact the Fort Mill hospital litigation” and is designed to brand the hospital system with “a name that doesn’t limit us to a specific geographical region.”

“Our name may be changing, but the heart of who we are remains the same,” Porter said.