Palmetto Health opened the $80 million Palmetto Health Heart Hospital adjacent to its flagship hospital in Columbia, S.C., last week. The opening completes a project that was six years in the making and built over the objections of Palmetto Health's local rival.
Palmetto, with three hospital campuses, began construction on the 200,000-square-foot heart hospital in 2002, more than two years after winning state certificate-of-need approval. Palmetto's Columbia rival, Sisters of Charity Providence Hospitals, fought the proposal but lost its appeal of the CON before a state administrative law judge.
Providence operates 251 beds on two campuses under a single license, including the Providence Heart Institute on its main campus, and it argued that Palmetto's facility could only succeed by taking volume from Providence. Palmetto Health is watched closely for any moves to win greater market share, because the system resulted from a 1998 merger that was allowed under a certificate of public advantage that exempts it from antitrust laws but subjects it to greater oversight from state regulators.
Providence also instituted a conflict-of-interest policy in 2002 that prohibits physicians who had any financial relationship or stake in another system from practicing at Providence (March 18, 2002, p. 30).
The appeal delayed construction for a short time, a spokeswoman for Palmetto Health said, but the hospital could have opened in 2005 as originally planned. The building was ready in November, but Palmetto Health took the next two months to display it to the community, she said.
All 124 beds in the new heart hospital are in private rooms. The hospital includes cardiac intensive-care, critical cardiac and telemetry units, and the clinical atmosphere is softened by three waterfalls, three landscaped courtyards and preserved trees in the atrium.
The atrium connects the hospital to a new $21 million, 100,000-square-foot medical office building owned by Columbia Heart and Carolina Cardiac Surgery Associates, two physician practices. The hospital also is connected to the system's flagship, Palmetto Health Richland.