Moncks Corner Medical Center (copy)

Trident's proposed Berkeley County hospital is to be built near its current Moncks Corner Medical Center. File/Provided

Two Charleston-area health-care providers are asking regulators to allow them to delay the start of two major projects that would increase space for patients, including a long-planned hospital in Berkeley County. 

Trident Health and the Medical University of South Carolina have notified the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control that they need more time.

The agency's board is scheduled to review the requests when it meets Thursday in Columbia. DHEC staff has recommended approval in both instances.

State law requires the state agency to sign off on major new medical facilities. Those approvals include construction deadlines. 

Trident is asking to push back the start of work by another nine months on its $115 million, 50-bed acute care hospital in Moncks Corner that's been approved since 2009. The existing permit, known as a "certificate of need," is set to expire Nov. 26.

In a letter to regulators, an attorney for the HCA-owned hospital system said efforts are underway to resolve "wetlands permitting issues" for the 21-acre site next to the existing Moncks Corner Medical Center.

This summer, the Army Corps of Engineers told Trident that it would be required to buy so-called credits from mitigation bank to offset the loss of the wetlands, at a cost of at least $440,000. Trident is pursuing the funding to pay for that, according to the letter. 

Spokesman Rod Whiting said in a statement that Trident "is negotiating a wetlands mitigation plan that, if successful, should allow the mitigation credits to issue in early 2019."

At the same time, the provider is hesitant about spending the money, citing MUSC's "sudden decision to oppose" the Moncks Corner hospital. Trident already has invested about $2.2 million into the project, which was held up for years by litigation.

MUSC received approval in July to build a rival, 128-bed Berkeley County hospital near Summerville at an estimated cost of $325 million. In a filing to DHEC, it questioned why Trident only recently discovered wetlands issues at its property, which Trident has owned for about two years. 

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DHEC gives MUSC approval to build a $325 million hospital in Berkeley County

MUSC filed its appeal after Trident was granted a second extension on the hospital project in January. 

Now, Trident is asking for a third extension. Its lawyer wrote that the MUSC challenge is part of the holdup because if Trident won't be allowed to build in Moncks Corner if it loses that case.

duo CRBR MUSC SJ Childrens Hosp.jpg (copy)

Workers are harnessed high above the ground during construction of the MUSC Shawn Jenkins Children's Hospital — with the Ravenel Bridge in the background — on Monday, August 6, 2018. Leaders at the Medical University of South Carolina say they have to wait for the project's completion to add 33 beds, for adult surgery patients, to the old children's hospital. File/Wade Spees/Staff

MUSC also is seeking a delay. It has been proposing to invest about $9.2 million to add 52 beds to its downtown Charleston campus and purchase medical equipment since 2015. It told regulators the project has to wait until after the Shawn Jenkins Children's Hospital is completed in late 2019. 

This is the fourth time MUSC has sought to extend its permit. Thirty-three of the planned beds, which will be set aside for adult surgery patients, will be put into the old children's hospital on Ashley Avenue after services are moved to the nearby Jenkins building.

Reach Mary Katherine Wildeman at 843-937-5594. Follow her on Twitter @mkwildeman.