The Regional Medical Center has received official support for its plans to build an ambulatory surgery center on its St. Matthews Road campus.
It has not, however, released details about its plans or submitted an application for a required certificate of need to the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control.
Orangeburg and Calhoun county councils have approved letters of support for the hospital’s plans. The counties own the hospital.
In addition, Bamberg County Council approved a resolution supporting the hospital's certificate of need application.
The center is planned to help offset declining reimbursements, surgical volumes and lack of taxpayer support, according to the resolution approved by Bamberg County Council.
The hospital's board of trustees in February approved exploring the certificate of need application, but RMC officials declined comment at the time.
The matter was also addressed in closed session at the hospital's March 25 teleconference meeting. A vote was not taken on the matter when the board returned to open session.
Hospital officials continue to be silent on the plans and have not yet submitted an application to DHEC.
"DHEC has not received a CON application regarding the Regional Medical Center of Orangeburg and Calhoun Counties," DHEC spokesman Chris Delcamp said.
Ambulatory surgery centers are health care facilities focused on providing same-day surgical care, including diagnostic and preventive procedures.
DHEC must issue a certificate of need before certain types of health care acquisitions, expansions and new facilities are allowed. The process is intended to reduce the duplication of services.
A hospital needs to apply for a certificate of need if an expenditure is over $2 million and includes an addition or an expansion of health service, according to the state law.
In order to get the certificate of need, the hospital needs the support of all the counties that use the hospital.
Bamberg County officials said RMC President Charles Williams said the hospital needs the center to help support itself financially.
The county’s resolution noted RMC serves more than 2,400 square miles of rural South Carolina, providing convenient access to emergent care, but has also been experiencing "declining reimbursements, declining surgical volume and lack taxpayer support from the counties it serves."
"Ambulatory surgical centers offer patients the convenience of having surgeries and procedures performed safely outside the hospital setting and are a high-quality, cost-efficient alternative to inpatient hospital care for surgical services. The RMC seeks to develop an ambulatory surgery center on the hospital campus. It will enhance access to high-quality, outpatient services," the resolution read.
Hospital leaders discussed developing an ambulatory surgery center in 2007, citing the poor reimbursements from the Centers of Medicare and Medicaid Services as well as a stagnant local population. The proposed facility would have housed four operating rooms and two procedure rooms.
At that time, a center was estimated to cost $5 million to 8 million.
The center was put on hold at that time as hospital officials questioned the economic viability of the project, including if it would draw enough patients and if it would drain the main facility of patients.
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