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MUSC requests state's permission to build and renovate facilities across SC

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At a Friday meeting of the University's Board of Trustees, the board voted and announced their pursuit of a total of five "certificates of need" (CONs) with the state health department. File/Brad Nettles/Staff

The Medical University of South Carolina is hoping to build three new health facilities, as well as upgrades and renovations to other centers across the state. And they need five separate approvals from the state to do it. 

At a Friday meeting of the university's board of trustees, the board voted and announced their pursuit of a total of five Certificates of Need with the state health department. 

While unusual, MUSC Health CEO Dr. Patrick Cawley, said the college is pretty hopeful they will get approval. 

“I understand it’s a little bit different getting five certificates at once," he said. "We wouldn't put them out at this time if we didn’t think they were important."

In South Carolina, the state's Department of Health and Environmental Control enforces the State Certification of Need and Health Facility Licensure Act. This is a regulatory regime that requires certain health facilities and services to seek approval before doing things like building health care centers. 

That approval is referred to as a certificate of need. The goal is to prevent the duplication and construction of unnecessary health care facilities and services. 

One of MUSC's five filings, if approved, will be used to build a $50 million replacement hospital for the communities that use both the Williamsburg Regional Hospital and the Lake City Community Hospital. Both facilities are expected to close once the new MUSC facility opens. 

When the new hospital is built, Cawley said it will be 100 percent MUSC owned and operated. The boards for Williamsburg Regional and Lake City Community are expected to establish community foundations to further support MUSC's new facility.  

“We see ourselves working closely with them in the future," Cawley said.

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In a press release, Julie Floyd, chair of the board for Willamsburg Regional Hospital, said that since the October 2015 flood damaged their location, they've been serving patients through a temporary site. 

"The MUSC Health replacement hospital will be a welcome solution and upgrade to the transitional facility," she said. 

In addition to their Lake City and Kingstree certificate, MUSC also filed two certificates for Lancaster County. One is for upgrades and renovations to their current Lancaster Medical Center. The other is to relocate around 100 inpatient beds from Lancaster Medical Center to build a new community hospital in the northern area of the county. The current medical center holds 225 inpatient beds.

At present, there are no existing beds or emergency services in northern Lancaster County, Cawley said.

MUSC is also hoping to get approval to build a freestanding emergency department to assist their Florence Medical Center. Before MUSC acquired the Florence facility, the previous hospital owners, Community Health Systems, got a certificate from DHEC to build the emergency department. 

That CON was withdrawn when MUSC acquired the center. 

"Nothing has really changed in the project," he said. “We would hope it gets an expedited review and approval." 

With the fifth CON, the University is seeking approval for an advanced robotic surgical microscope at its main campus in Charleston. The robotic-controlled microscope would potentially lead to fewer complications and avoid the purchase of lower quality microscopes. 

Cawley explained that, in their minds, these certificates are all important and said time would tell whether or not they get approval.

"We feel pretty good about them," he said.

Reach Jerrel Floyd at 843-937-5558. Follow him on Twitter @jfloyd134.

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