Lawsuit claims DHEC not following state Certificate of Need Act - - Columbia, South Carolina |

Lawsuit claims DHEC not following state Certificate of Need Act

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More than 10 petitioners in the healthcare industry filed a lawsuit in the South Carolina Supreme Court after the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control canceled a state-mandated program because of a budget veto.

Governor Nikki Haley vetoed $1.7 million for the Certificate of Need program in late June from the state's budget.  The General Assembly created the CON Act to "Promote cost containment, prevent unnecessary duplication of healthcare facilities and services," among others, to meet public needs.

"The Certificate of Need program is an intensely political one through which bureaucratic policy makers deny healthcare providers from offering treatment," Haley wrote in a veto letter. "We should allow the market to work rather than politics."

With that decision, DHEC Director Catherine Templeton notified all healthcare providers who had certificates of need in the past to say the state agency will no longer offer the program as of July 1. The CON program regulates medical facilities' construction, hospital expansions and equipment purchases.

Templeton's June 28 letter to members of the regulated community said DHEC "Will not be inclined to take enforcement actions under the Certificate of Need for activity" during the program's suspension, unless it is obligated to by the General Assembly.

However, the director's letter also said DHEC will continue with its construction and licensing programs for health and safety issues at healthcare facilities.

"With these protections in place, we do not believe the suspension of the Certificate of Need program presents any threat to the health, safety and welfare of the public," Templeton wrote.

However, the 12 healthcare industries filing the lawsuit disagree.

"DHEC's stated unwillingness to enforce the CON Act's requirement that certain facilities, expenditures, services and equipment require CONs or related regulatory approvals jeopardizes the continued existence of healthcare facilities and services previously established by petitioners," the lawsuit stated.

The petitioners are asking the state Supreme Court to declare that Haley's veto does not create reason for cancellation of the CON program nor does it mean DHEC is to remove its obligation to administer provisions of the CON Act. In addition, the lawsuit says DHEC has not taken "reasonable effort to fund the administration and enforcement of the CON Act."

DHEC has 20 days from July 18 to respond to the lawsuit.

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