This week, a court ruling instructed Lexington Medical Center to close its third catheterization lab and second open heart surgery operating room. Acting in complete compliance, we will close them by the end of the week. Despite the closure of these two rooms, it’s important to note that Lexington Medical Center’s heart program continues to be operational. Heart surgeries and catheterizations will continue as they have for the last two years in our Duke-affiliated program.
Last year, the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) announced a “suspension” of the Certificate of Need (CON) program because the governor and the legislature failed to fund the program. DHEC advised Lexington Medical Center and other providers to proceed with needed projects during the “suspension” of CON. Projects that were undertaken would still require a license from DHEC.
At the time, our hospital operated two cardiac catheterization labs and one open heart surgery suite. Lexington Medical Center had the need for an additional catheterization lab and an additional open heart surgery suite. Lexington Medical Center requested and DHEC provided licensure for an additional catheterization lab and an additional open heart surgery suite. With DHEC’s approval, the units began providing care for our patients last year.
LMC’s heart program has been very successful in terms of quality, patient satisfaction and volume. This year, our team will perform more than 300 open heart surgeries. As the program has been very successful, we felt the need to add capacity to care for the increasing number of patients who choose to rely on our physicians and facilities.
A Columbia hospital filed a lawsuit asking that Lexington Medical Center not be allowed to use the new units to care for our patients. This week, a judge ruled that DHEC should not have granted the licenses without having already approved a CON for them.
What does this mean for LMC’s heart program? LMC will comply with the judge’s ruling and discontinue operating the units that were added until LMC receives a CON to do so, or until the CON law is reformed or repealed. We will continue to operate the previously existing catheterization labs and open heart surgery suite, and our Duke-affiliated heart program will continue to thrive and provide great care for our patients.
Unfortunately, in South Carolina, heart health is a significant issue and that will not change in the near term. We are responding to the health needs of the people we serve. All we can do is offer the best possible care for the people within our community, and have sufficient capacity to meet their needs.