NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - Trident Medical Center had to fork out tens of thousands of dollars to the state health department in fines earlier this year.
It stems from an investigation by the Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) in September 2017. Trident Medical Center was using part of the hospital’s fourth floor as an overflow area for the emergency department. State health officials had given the hospital permission to do so, because of an increase in patients with behavioral health problems.
But according to DHEC, Trident had set up beds, and was using the area for patients who had been admitted, not just those waiting for emergency assistance.
The state health department fined Trident Medical, noting the area where the beds were set up did not provide access to hot water to those psychiatric patients. It also cited the hospital because it had failed to apply for an amended license to use that area for admitted patients.
In April 2019 in a consent order agreed upon by the hospital, Trident Medical was fined $40,000. It was required to pay $20,000 of that up front, and the rest within six months, if it didn’t correct the problem. Trident Medical has paid the $20,000, and is in compliance, after receiving an amended license to operate the addition of eight psychiatric beds in the overflow area of the fourth floor.
In a statement from Trident Medical, hospital spokesman Rod Whiting says, “a positive outcome of the consent order is we were granted permission to increase the number of our inpatient behavioral health beds to 25 from 17.”
Here is the full statement from Trident Medical Center:
“The execution of the Consent Order does not constitute an admission of liability. It is an expedient means to resolve the licensing dispute and to avoid protracted litigation. We assert that at all times referenced in the Consent Order we were best serving our patients who came to our ED in need. We were always focused on improving patient outcomes and preventing overcrowding and significant wait times. The growing problem of the lack of inpatient beds to care for people with behavioral health needs is very real in the Lowcountry. For example, last year more than 5,000 patients were assessed for behavioral health needs in Trident Health’s four ERs. Our behavioral health team of five psychiatrists and more than 100 clinicians work tirelessly providing meaningful and compassionate care for their patients. We are very proud of our five-year history of providing excellent inpatient and outpatient behavioral care. A positive outcome of the Consent Order is we were granted permission to increase the number of our inpatient behavioral health beds to 25 from 17. Still, there currently aren’t enough beds in the Lowcountry to adequately meet the needs of Lowcountry patients needing inpatient behavioral health care.”
Live 5 News reported last year that Trident Medical is planning to build a freestanding Behavioral Health Center that would house the program’s inpatient and outpatient services. It would be located close to Trident’s North Charleston campus. The hospital has received approval from state health officials for a Certificate of Need to build the facility.
Officials say they are currently in the architectural and planning phases of the project.