Governor’s CON veto puts hospitals’ future in limbo

  • Monday, July 15, 2013

Now what?
That’s the question being posed by area hospitals following South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley’s veto of funding for the state’s Certificate of Need program.
As of July 1 and the new FY2013-2014 state budget, there is no funding provided for the CON program. Hospitals with expansion plans such as Roper St. Francis Healthcare and Trident Health System are left wondering what to do.
The CON program was part of a years-long standoff between Roper and Trident, and affected potential construction of two new hospitals in Berkeley County, Roper’s proposed 50-bed hospital in the Carnes Crossroads neighborhood of Goose Creek, and Trident’s planned 50-bed facility in Moncks Corner.
“It really is unclear what this change means,” said Trident CEO Todd Gallati. “There is a longstanding law still clearly in place that says hospitals are decided by Certificates of Need. Everything grounds to a halt.
“We have two applications in and no one’s looking at it right now.”
The dispute between Roper and Trident, which began in June 2009 when both hospitals applied for CONs to build 50-bed hospitals in Berkeley County, is currently mired in the administrative law courts. Trident has appealed the most recent law court ruling that upheld the Department of Health and Environment Control’s approval of two hospitals four years ago citing a duplication of services. No date for the appeal has been set to date.
The cut in funding indefinitely delays the construction of a Berkeley County hospital, whether it’s one or two, that many believe has been overdue for years.
“What we’re doing right now is waiting on the Supreme Court to voice what their stand is on the CON situation before we act,” Gallati said. “We’re waiting on Supreme Court to say there is no funding. We have no CON requirement. Facilities can go forth. Or we’re waiting on them to say there is no funding but it’s a law and the government has to find a way to make the law stand up.”
The state recently shut down the Certificate of Need program after the Legislature voted to uphold Gov. Nikki Haley’s veto of the $1.7 million appropriated for it. The program was designed to deter health care providers from duplicating unnecessary area services with expansions and equipment purchases.
DHEC attorneys have asked the state Supreme Court to clarify the implications of suspending the program.
“We are in a limbo state,” Gallati said, “At least before we were heading in something of a direction in regard to building a new hospital in Berkeley County. Now we have a CON program with nobody to enforce it.”
Gallati has no idea when a decision will be made.
“It could be a few weeks or a few months before the Supreme Court gets through it,” Gallati said. “Until the Supreme Court decides, it’s leaving providers like Trident Health in limbo. That should answer a lot of questions for all of the hospitals and providers in the area. We’re just sitting tight in the meantime.”
Read about Roper’s reaction to the situation in next week’s Independent.

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