ROCK HILL Escalating a turf war that has raged for seven years, Piedmont Medical Center in Rock Hill has asked a South Carolina judge to bar Carolinas HealthCare System from building a new hospital in Fort Mill, S.C.
Lawyers for Piedmont Medical Center asked an administrative law judge to overturn the decision by South Carolina regulators that allows Carolinas HealthCare to build in Fort Mill.
Piedmont Medical argues that North Carolinas 1943 Hospital Authorities Act, which governs the public, nonprofit Carolinas HealthCare, prohibits the Charlotte-based system from building outside North Carolina.
Lawyers for Carolinas HealthCare counter that this issue was decided in 2009 after it was raised by Novant Health, which had also applied to build the Fort Mill hospital.
At the time, Administrative Law Judge Carolyn Matthews denied Novants objection and ruled that North Carolina law appears to give Carolinas HealthCare broad enough ... powers to operate in South Carolina and that the largest hospital system in the Carolinas already has substantial presence in the state.
The battle over a Fort Mill hospital has been in the court since 2006. Thats when Carolinas HealthCare and Novant, Charlottes two major hospital systems, challenged the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Controls initial decision to award the project to Piedmont Medical.
After several challenges, DHEC was ordered to start the process over in 2009. All three hospital systems applied again, and in 2011, Carolinas HealthCare won the right to build a $77.5 million, 64-bed hospital in Fort Mill.
But that didnt end the fight.
Both Piedmont Medical and Novant appealed, and Novant bowed out in February. Piedmont Medicals appeal is scheduled to be heard in South Carolina Administrative Law Court, starting Monday.
Piedmont Medical, owned by for-profit Tenet Healthcare Corp., has argued it is best positioned geographically to serve residents of northern York County.
In its latest motion, Piedmont Medical contends that, if the Hospital Authorities Act is read in conjunction with the North Carolina Constitution, it is clear that (Carolinas HealthCare) is given the authority to act to benefit North Carolina residents only.
Throughout the debate, Carolinas HealthCare has argued that it already serves many upstate South Carolina residents through its hospital in south Mecklenburg Carolinas Medical Center-Pineville and its 17 doctors offices in the York, Lancaster and Chesterfield counties in South Carolina. The Fort Mill hospital site is 4 miles south of the Mecklenburg County border.
The North Carolina-South Carolina border is not the Berlin wall, the Carolinas HealthCare response says. Thousands cross it each day to go to work or perform other activities in South Carolina.
Further, Carolinas HealthCare argues that Piedmont Medical should not be allowed to argue that Carolinas HealthCare cant operate in South Carolina because the two systems jointly own two radiation therapy centers in York and Lancaster counties.
Carolinas HealthCare also manages and has partial ownership in a number of hospitals and health facilities in South Carolina, including Roper Hospital and Bon Secours-St. Francis Xavier Hospital, both in Charleston.
Finally, Carolinas HealthCare said Piedmont Medical should not be allowed to raise this latest objection related to North Carolina law because it has failed to present its argument at any time in this eight-year process until now.
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