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$12.5M surgery center approved; Orangeburg hospital plans to appeal state decision
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$12.5M surgery center approved; Orangeburg hospital plans to appeal state decision

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Ambulatory Surgery Center

Ambulatory Partners LLC got permission from the state to build a $12.5 million, private ambulatory surgery facility across the street from the Regional Medical Center.

The state health board has given two Orangeburg doctors permission to build a $12.5 million ambulatory surgery center.

“The right decision to benefit the citizens has been made,” Dr. Dion Franga said following Thursday’s decision by the S.C. Board of Health and Environmental Control.

“Ambulatory Partners stands committed to supporting cutting-edge, high-quality health care for our area,” he said. Ambulatory Partners is the company planning to build the center.

The Regional Medical Center is opposed to the construction of a competing surgery center and plans to appeal the decision to the state Administrative Law Court.

“We are going to exercise all the options that are available to us to protect the interests of the RMC,” hospital board Chairman the Rev. Dr. Caesar Richburg said.

Richburg said the hospital's counsel estimates that a competing ambulatory surgery center would have about a $7.4 million annual impact on the hospital.

"The RMC is committed to providing the very highest quality, compassionate care to every single patient and we will take every necessary step to continue the mission well into the future," Richburg said.

Ambulatory Partners LLC is made up of Franga, a general surgeon and RMC board member, and radiologist Dr. Amit Sanghi.

They plan to build a 16,000-square-foot, multi-specialty ambulatory surgery facility on St. Matthews Road, across from RMC. They’re planning for two operating rooms.

The center’s services will include ophthalmology, general surgery, vascular surgery, retinal surgery, orthopedics, gastroenterology, ear nose and throat, radiology and podiatry.

Plans include in-house diagnostics imaging testing such as MRI, CT scan and general diagnostic imaging.

Construction on the center could begin by year's end, with an opening in late 2022 or early 2023.

In addition to approving Ambulatory Partners’ certificate of need,

The S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control has also approved RMC’s certificate of need to develop a multi-specialty ambulatory surgery facility on its campus. A certificate of need is required for major health care construction and expenses.

RMC plans to renovate its existing 10,000-square-foot Dialysis Access Institute facility to make it into a surgery center.

The hospital's surgery center will include six operating rooms offering gastroenterology, orthopedics, otolaryngology, urology, podiatry and general surgery.

The total cost of the project will be $2.4 million.

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RMC submitted its certificate of need application about a week after the doctors.

Thursday’s 5-1 approval of Ambulatory Partners’ request overturned a decision made in October by DHEC's certificate of need staff.

The staff initially denied the doctors’ plans to build, saying the certificate of need application did not adequately identify the number of patients who would use the services. The staff also claimed it did not show how the center would fill a need in the community.

Franga and Sanghi appealed the DHEC staff decision.

The state's Department of Health Request for Final Review Committee met in late December to discuss the request from Ambulatory Partners. The committee moved the project to a full board review, which occurred Thursday.

Thursday's hearing provided Ambulatory Partners and DHEC certificate of need staff a chance to testify before the full board.

Franga and Sanghi presented their case Thursday, noting the outmigration of local patients to Charleston, Lexington and Richland.

The doctors said the center would not negatively impact the hospital as there is enough demand for both.

Franga said ambulatory surgery center care is less expensive than hospital service. He said it’s projected that their center will see less than 10% of the hospital’s ambulatory care cases.

Franga also noted he foresees their practice as “raising the bar” for RMC, allowing it to further expand services as joint venture opportunities emerge through future medical facilities along the U.S. Highway 601 corridor.

Maggie Murdock, the certificate of need program director, said the Ambulatory Partners application had some inconsistencies in the data used to develop utilization numbers for the proposed project.

“We could not duplicate any of the math,” Murdock said, noting a second application was submitted and the numbers were still awry.

Murdock said the Orangeburg area does have a need for an ambulatory surgery center, but the application was not accurate.

“I strongly suspect it would have been approved if we were able to match it up,” Murdock said. “I don't know if there was an error in collecting data.”

The DHEC board entered into closed session for about a half hour before coming out. A motion was made to uphold staff’s decision to deny the application.

This vote, however, was halted when the board decided to rescind the vote and go back into closed session to receive further legal advice.

Upon returning to open session a second time, the board proceeded once again to vote to uphold the staff’s decision, but the vote failed due to a tie.

A motion was made to grant Ambulatory Partners the certificate of need.

This vote passed, with board members coming to the conclusion that the certificate of need “stands on its own merits” in filling a need for the ambulatory surgery cases in Orangeburg.

Contact the writer: gzaleski@timesanddemocrat.com or 803-533-5551. Check out Zaleski on Twitter at @ZaleskiTD.

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