‘We won!’ Piedmont CEO relishes end of long fight to build a Fort Mill hospital

FORT MILL — Sometime in the near future a baby will be born in Fort Mill and it won’t be a home delivery, but rather a hometown delivery.

After a 15-year battle in front of state regulators, hearing officers and court judges, Piedmont Medical Center, the first of what would become several entities to apply for the right to build Fort Mill’s first hospital, prevailed.

“We won!” Piedmont CEO Mark Noscaka exalted to start a hastily arranged press conference held in the town’s iconic bandstand in downtown’s Confederate Park.

“The People of Fort Mill deserve a hospital in their community, and now they’re gonna get one,” he said.

There were so many twists and turns and months — sometimes years — of waiting for rulings between hearings and trials, that Noscaka is a couple of CEOs removed from the one who ran PMC when it first applied for state approval to build the hospital.

Things have changed so much that Fort Mill, which elected two new mayors to multiple terms since former Mayor Charlie Powers led the town’s first embrace of PMC’s plan in 2004, more than doubled its population. It grew its footprint by about twice its original size through annexation.

The Fort Mill School District expanded from seven schools to 16 and is on the verge of adding one more — the district’s third high school. Catawba Ridge is scheduled to open in 2020. Nation Ford opened in 2007. The district had one high school, Fort Mill High, in 2004.

On Thursday, it was announced the S.C. Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal by Atrium Health of an earlier decision to award Piedmont Medical Center the Certificate of Need required by the state to build the hospital.
Noscaka said he was told there is no legal path forward for Atrium to contest the court’s decision.

“At Piedmont, we have been fighting this good fight for 15 years and the people in Fort Mill have been patient. As a matter of fact, they not only have been patient, but they doubled in size since the first Certificate of Need was awarded and now even more people need care in the community. We are just overjoyed.”

PMC, owned by Dallas, Texas-based Tenet, long ago acquired 40 acres of property that used to be a Springs Farm peach orchard on S.C. 160 West near the intersection of U.S. 21. It’s where the small, seasonal produce market known as “The Old Peach Stand” sits, across the road from “The New” Peach Stand. Originally planning to build a 64-bed hospital that could could expand to 250 beds, PMC revised the plan to start with 100 beds.

“I am very happy to have a decision and to know a community that has been eagerly waiting for 15 years will finally have an opportunity to receive health care inside our town,” Mayor Guynn Savage said.

It was estimated the new hospital will create about 400 jobs and pay over $2.8 million annually in taxes to the school district and more than $500,000 to the town and even more — up to $700,000 — to York County.

“I feel that the announcement of a Piedmont Medical Center coming to Fort Mill fills a need that our community has had for many years,” town Councilman Chris Moody said.

“Our citizens can now receive quality healthcare right here in Fort Mill.”

Recently, PMS broke ground on a 24-hour emergency care center called Gold Hill Emergency Department on Gold Hill Road, several blocks from S.C. 160 West in the unincorporated part of the county referred to as Fort Mill, though it’s closer to the City of Tega Cay.

Savage, who recently raised concerns about traffic in the Dobys Bridge/ Whites road area, where another new middle school is planned, is a member of the multi-government planning group Rock Hill-Fort Mill Area Transportation Study, said the hospital will pose new challenges.

However, she’s confident they can be overcome with timely planning and execution.

“Progress comes with issues,” she said.

“Traffic is a byproduct of progress. I think in the 15-year window that we’ve been waiting on a hospital, there have been things that have come up such as the widening of the (U.S.) 21 corridor and the two interchanges over (Interstate) 77 need to be re-done. My understanding is the South Carolina Department of Transportation can move forward making better decisions for the whole area,” she said.

“I think it throws a new perspective on planning for traffic when you have a large, 100-bed medical facility on that corner. They’ll have to do a traffic study and we’ll have to accommodate.”

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