University Health Care System out of Augusta could build a new medical facility in Aiken County.
County Planning and Development Director Stephen Strohminger said his department does have a development permit from University on file, issued on May 23, for a new medical center near USC Aiken and Aiken Regional Medical Centers.
The proposed plans show a 50-bed, roughly 88,000-square-foot facility with office space, an emergency wing and emergency room parking on Trolley Run Boulevard.
James R. Davis, president and CEO of University Health Care System, said the health care system is re-evaluating its plans for the Trolley Run Boulevard site in light of the recent South Carolina Supreme Court ruling on the Certificate of Need law.
“Prior to the South Carolina Supreme Court reinstating enforcement of the Certificate of Need law, University Health Care System was exploring the possibility of building a hospital in Aiken,” Davis said. “Our goal would be to bring University-quality care closer to the homes of the citizens of Aiken. Since the Supreme Court decision, we are re-evaluating our plans for the Trolley Run Boulevard site, as well as other opportunities to serve the residents of Aiken County.”
The Certificate of Need process helps prevent unnecessary duplication of health care facilities and services, which can drive up costs; guides the establishment of health facilities; and ensures high quality services as provided in those facilities, according to the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control.
Health care providers must obtain the certificate before they can build new health care facilities, spend more than $2 million to improve or expand a health care facility or add beds to increase patient capacity.
The S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control administers the certificates despite its recent arguments to the Supreme Court that it cannot do so any longer without the funding vetoed by Gov. Nikki Haley. The justices ruled that the department must continue administering the program, noting that Haley's veto affected only funding, not the existence of a program set out in state law, according to The Associated Press.
The S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control has reported it hopes to be ready to accept Certificate of Need applications in mid-July.
When the Certificate of Need program's funding was cut off, dozens of projects were stalled.
Currently, University has not given the County any construction plans or pulled a building permit. The development permit does have up to two years of use, which means University Hospital has two years to obtain a building permit.
University Health Care System's main campus is located on Walton Way in Augusta, and it serves residents throughout the CSRA. The hospital was founded in 1818 as City Hospital, and its current campus opened in 1970. The campus includes the Heart & Vascular Institute, office buildings, and more than 600 private physicians and treatment centers, according to its website.
Aiken Regional Medical Centers is located less that five minutes away from the University property. Aiken Regional is a 245-bed care facility, which includes emergency services, the Cardiovascular Institute of Carolina and pediatrics, according to its website.
Calls to Aiken Regional Medical Centers were not returned by press time.
Maayan Schechter is the local government reporter with Aiken Standard. Follow her on Twitter @MaayanSchechter.