Rival hospitals can build Berkeley S.C. Court of Appeals upholds decision in Trident, Roper dispute

David Dunlap (left) is CEO of Roper St. Francis Healthcare; Todd Gallati is CEO of Trident Health.

Two hospitals can be built in Berkeley County — one by Roper St. Francis and another by Trident Health — after the S.C. Court of Appeals on Wednesday upheld a decision by the Administrative Law Court.

The appeals court’s ruling said that the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control could legally issue two “certificates of need” for the county. One went to Roper St. Francis-Berkeley in the Carnes Crossroads community and the other to Trident Medical Center LLC in Moncks Corner.

The two hospital systems have disputed since 2009 whether there are enough patients to fill two 50-bed acute care hospitals situated 11 miles apart on U.S. Highway 17A.

The ruling went against Trident, which has said there are not enough patients for two hospitals to be viable. Roper has argued that the area can sustain both.

Certificates of need are issued by DHEC to help regulate health care costs and prevent unnecessary duplication of services.

The appeals court ruling said the two hospitals would not be in direct competition, and that the local market would support both.

David Dunlap, president and CEO for Roper, said the ruling makes it clear that a new Roper St. Francis facility would be more convenient for Berkeley County patients who must now travel to Roper Hospital in downtown Charleston.

“The beds in the new Berkeley County hospital would be transferred from Roper Hospital to better serve our patients,” he said.

Trident disagrees and is currently weighing its legal options, including whether to appeal the latest ruling, CEO Todd Gallati said.

“We are seeing many smaller hospitals in rural areas throughout the nation struggling, and we don’t think that two small hospitals in Berkeley County, one of which will be located just miles from Trident, can thrive and serve our community for the long term, better than one hospital,” Gallati said in a statement.

The case has been in litigation for six years. In 2012 the state Administrative Law Court sided with DHEC’s original two-hospital ruling. Trident appealed that ruling shortly thereafter.

Then in 2013, Gov. Nikki Haley suspended funding of DHEC’s certificate of need program, bringing the Berkeley hospital process to a standstill.

But the S.C. Supreme Court ruled last year that DHEC is obligated to administer the program, even without any money.

Trident’s proposed hospital would be built on a vacant parcel next to its Moncks Corner Medical Center location on Live Oak Drive.

The Roper facility is planned for a site 11 miles down Highway 17A in the Carnes Crossroads community of Goose Creek.

Dan Brown of The Berkeley Independent contributed to this report.