Hospital expansion plans under fire by competing hospital

SUMMERVILLE, SC (WCSC) - The only hospital in growing Dorchester County now announcing plans for a multimillion dollar expansion, but not without some controversy involving a competing hospital system. Trident's Summerville Medical Center hopes to move forward with plans, but Roper Saint Francis Healthcare is opposing the plans.

Dorchester county residents say a good quality, local hospital is vital.

"I think people deserve quality care. They deserve privacy during their recovery. This is very convenient for a lot of people, very close," resident Tricia Haggerty said.

Summerville Medical Center is owned by Trident Health System. They say to fill patient needs, a hospital expansion is necessary. SMC is the only hospital in Dorchester County, which census data show was the fastest growing county in the state.

The $26 million expansion would add a 3 story patient tower, 30 additional medical/surgical beds, and 18 private rooms.

"They're expecting 300 new jobs. Property taxes will also increase due to this facility, so that will be good for the county," Dorchester County Councilman Larry Hargett said.

Roper Saint Francis Hospital's chief strategic officer, Douglas Bowling, says Trident Health System's plan to expand in Summerville should be put on hold for now. He says there is currently a lawsuit between Trident and Roper over building two new hospitals in Berkeley County, which still needs to be settled.

"We want the state to at least with hold their approval of the Summerville project until the two hospitals that they already approved in Berkeley County can be built and develop their patient population before they add additional beds in the area," Bowling said.

State population formulas are used to determine whether a hospital is needed in a certain area. Bowling is concerned Roper's new Berkeley County hospital, which would be built in Goose Creek and Summerville Medical Center would serve overlapping groups of people.

No construction start date has been set as SMC's expansion plans are only pending. The Department of Health and Environmental Control must approve all applications for new hospitals in the state, and Summerville Medical's hearing is set for August 10th.

Trident and Roper's lawsuit involving the Berkeley County hospitals issue is scheduled for January 2012.

The state uses population formulas to determine whether a hospital is needed in a certain area before approving a hospital's certificate of need.

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