DHEC reversal on proposed Bluffton outpatient center draws ire of competing care facilities

gmartin@islandpacket.comApril 24, 2012 

Two health care operators have issued a scathing response to a decision last month by the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control to reverse its earlier ruling and allow Hilton Head Hospital to build an outpatient center in Bluffton.

On March 29, DHEC granted Hilton Head Hospital a certificate of need for an $18 million outpatient center near the intersection of U.S. 278 and Buck Island Road. That reversed an earlier decision to reject the application.Both Beaufort Memorial Hospital and Savannah-based St. Joseph's/Candler Health System --which operate outpatient facilities in the Bluffton area-- say the facility would harm their business and is not needed. They protested the proposed outpatient center in separate letters filed April 13.

"(T)here is nothing in the Department's record evidencing any rationale for randomly electing to reconsider the application and issue a new decision," the St. Joseph's/Candler letter reads. "Thus, the only conclusion supported by the record is that Staff's actions were arbitrary, capricious and characterized by an abuse of discretion."

St. Joseph's/Candler additionally asserts the DHEC board violated a state constitutional provision by depriving hospital officials a "meaningful opportunity to be heard on the issues raised in this matter."

St. Joseph's/Candler also claims DHEC's reversal should be voided because it was issued after a 150-day deadline from Hilton Head Hospital's request for the certificate, filed Sept. 23.

Beaufort Memorial shared similar concerns and asked the DHEC board to again revisit its decision and deny the certificate.

Certificates of need are required for most new medical facilities to ensure that too many aren't built in one area, which could increase the cost of medical care.Hilton Head Hospital spokeswoman Kelly Presnell expressed confidence DHEC's ruling would stand.

"We have been totally transparent in this CON application with all DHEC officials documenting that this project meets community need and consolidates existing service in Bluffton," she wrote in a statement. "The new outpatient center in Bluffton will preserve and add jobs to the community, increase accessibility and quality of outpatient services and add to the tax base to the town of Bluffton."

The proposed center has the support of Bluffton Mayor Lisa Sulka, who called it an "exciting, major project that will be great for Bluffton."

DHEC has not yet responded to the letters, and attempts to reach an agency representative to learn if another review meeting had been scheduled were unsuccessful.

Related content

  1. Hilton Head Hospital appeals rejection of proposed Bluffton center, March 12, 2012
  2. Hilton Head Hospital's Bluffton outpatient center approved, March 30, 2012

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