Court of Appeals rules Trident and Roper St. Francis can build in Berkeley

The S.C. Court of Appeals ruled that both Trident Health and Roper St. Francis may build hospitals in Berkeley County.

The South Carolina Court of Appeals this week sided once again with a state health department decision, upholding an earlier opinion that both Roper St. Francis and Trident Health can build hospitals in Berkeley County.

But it doesn’t mean the legal battle is over.

Both hospitals have been issued “Certificates of Need” by the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control to build the hospitals. Trident Health has contested the decision, arguing that the county can support only one hospital.

The S.C. Administrative Law Court and the state Court of Appeals have ruled — mostly recently on Wednesday — in favor of two new hospitals.

Trident Health spokeswoman Rebekah Faulk said the hospital system is “investigating our avenues for appealing this decision to the (state) Supreme Court.”

Trident Health operates a standalone emergency department in Moncks Corner. There isn’t an existing full-service hospital in Berkeley County.

Roper St. Francis CEO David Dunlap praised the Court of Appeals’ decision, calling on Trident Health to “stop the legal fighting.”

“We hope Trident chooses construction, new jobs and more accessible health care for Berkeley County, not wasteful litigation,” Dunlap said in a statement.

Meanwhile, the General Assembly is considering a bill that would eliminate South Carolina’s Certificate of Need program altogether.

The policy requires hospitals and health care providers to seek state approval before adding beds or buying expensive new equipment.

While Certificate of Need was originally conceived as a federal program to control health care costs and avoid duplication, critics of the policy, including Gov. Nikki Haley, argue that it stifles free market competition.

The bill, which would phase out Certificate of Need by 2018, passed the state House of Representatives last week.

Reach Lauren Sausser at 937-5598.