Roper and Trident can build Berkeley County hospitals, court rules

David Dunlap (left) and Todd Gallati

The latest round in a long-running legal brawl that stalled plans for two 50-bed hospitals in Berkeley County ended today, with a ruling that says both can be built.

“I find that Berkeley’s population size is well able to support two 50-bed hospitals.”S.C. Administrative Law CourtJudge John D. McLeod said in his written order,

Trident Health said it was disappointed with the decision, which it called an error. It also said it would appeal the ruling to a higher court, meaning neither hospital is likely to get built anytime soon.

Today’s decision gives Roper St. Francis Healthcare the OK to add 50 beds near Goose Creek that would compete with Trident’s proposed facility in Moncks Corner.

Trident had argued only one hospital is needed.

“Under this scenario, Trident cannot build a hospital in Moncks Corner. We do not want to be a part of a process which promotes unnecessary spending of health-care dollars to duplicate services,” said Todd Gallati, president and CEO of Trident Health.

Roper said it was “very pleased” with McLeod’s decision.

“Roper St. Francis has fought hard for Berkeley County for more than three years on this issue. We have not wavered in the position that both hospitals, proposed for two different areas, are needed and would be supported.”saidDavid Dunlap, president and CEO.

The permitting dispute goes back to 2008, when Trident and Roper each proposed hospitals that would sit about 12 miles apart and provide similar acute-care services. Both providers have said they were attracted to the housing and population growth projected for Berkeley County.

Roper purchased land for its project in the Carnes Crossroads area, while Trident planned to expand its existing Moncks Corner medical center.

The state Department of Health and Environmental Control approved the two proposals by issuing “Certificates of Need” in June 2009. Its reasoning was that the health care facilities would not compete with each other.

Trident immediately appealed DHEC’s decision, arguing in part that it wasn’t financially feasible to have two hospitals so close together. Roper officials countered by saying the population growth would enable both to make money.

See Thursday’s editions of The Post and Courier for more details.