Rather than picking one construction project over another, the state of South Carolina has approved the certificate-of-need applications of competing for-profit and not-for-profit corporations to expand their operations near Hilton Head, S.C.
During the battle for CON approval, each side raised ownership status as an argument in favor of its project and against the other's project (Sept. 8, p. 4).
Although CON disputes are common, this one was noteworthy because the for-profit system involved is Tenet Healthcare Corp., which has portrayed itself as above the ownership debate and willing to work with the not-for-profit hospital sector.
In this case, Tenet wants to build a $6 million ambulatory surgery center in Okatie, S.C., near a growing retirement community called Sun City. The facility would be about 15 miles from Hilton Head Medical Center, which Tenet owns.
Broad River Healthcare, a not-for-profit management company that runs two county hospitals, wants to build a $19 million, 31-bed replacement hospital in Hardeeville, S.C., also near Sun City. It would replace 31-bed Low Country General Hospital, a 30-year-old facility in Ridgeland, S.C.
Earlier this month, the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control approved both projects. Tenet's CON had been pending since January, Low Country's since March.
Tenet spokesman Lance Ignon said the Santa Barbara, Calif.-based hospital chain is pleased with the state's decision and that approving both projects "gives (local residents) a real choice in healthcare."
Broad River, based in Beaufort, S.C., said in a statement that it is happy about its CON approval, but it is concerned the projects will be located within five miles of each other and that "it will not be economically feasible for both to go forward."
The Low Country General board met Dec. 18 and decided to contest the approval of Tenet's CON application. Low Country made the decision because it's the facility that filed the CON application, a Broad River spokeswoman said.
Health department spokesman Thom Berry said both proposals demonstrated a need for services in the area. He added that the department also considered population growth in the area. While the facilities will be five miles apart, Berry says they will be serving a much larger area than their immediate surroundings.