Berkeley County, which currently has no hospitals, could look forward to two 50-bed facilities were it not for ongoing appeals that now also affect a plan to expand Summerville Medical Center.

The appeals could delay the projects for years as they wind their way through the court system. The S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control approved both hospitals. A decision is pending on whether to approve the Summerville expansion.

Growing frustration in the matter has executives for competing Roper St. Francis Health Care and Trident Health System pointing fingers of blame at one another.

Top brass at Trident's Summerville Medical Center on Monday described Roper St. Francis' opposition to center expansion plans as "frustrating" and "mind-boggling."

Summerville CEO Louis Caputo said it is "very rare" for an expansion plan to be opposed by another hospital. The center wants to add 30 beds.

"There is a need at Summerville Medical Center, and it's documented," Caputo said.

In response, Roper St. Francis said that it opposes Summerville Medical Center expansion because Trident

Health System is using the same population to justify both the Summerville expansion and a new Trident hospital planned in Berkeley County.

Prior to Roper stating that it will oppose expansion of the Summerville center, Trident filed an appeal of plans for a new Roper hospital in Berkeley.

"I think he's (Caputo) being disingenuous," said Roper St. Francis Chief Strategy Officer Doug Bowling.

Berkeley County, with a population of 170,000, can support two 50-bed hospitals, Bowling said.

Roper's Berkeley hospital would be in Carnes Crossroads near Goose Creek. Trident's hospital would be in Moncks Corner.

Caputo said it was confusing to him that DHEC approved two hospitals for the county.

"It seems that they went against their own rules. What pushed them to do that, I don't know," he said.

Caputo said it wasn't the first time DHEC made a decision that was not in line with the state health plan. Two hospitals would duplicate services and operate at a loss, Trident said.

Caputo said "my gut is telling me" that the Roper opposition to the Summerville expansion is "leverage" in the battle between the two companies over the Berkeley hospitals. Summerville Medical Center is part of Trident Health System, which also operates Trident Medical Center in North Charleston.

Bowling denied that Roper St. Francis' opposition to the 30-bed expansion at Summerville Medical Center is in response to Trident's opposition to Roper's plans for a Berkeley hospital.

Caputo urged supporters to write letters to DHEC in favor of the Summerville Medical Center expansion. It is a $26 million project to add 30 medical/surgical beds to the 94-bed facility.