New Bern eye doctor loses appeal to expand practice based on state medical law

·3 min read
Dr. Jay Singleton, an ophthalmologist and owner of Singleton Vision Center in New Bern, was denied his request to strike down N.C.'s "Certificate of Need" law on June 21. The doctor hoped to his expand his eye care service, and N.C. Court of Appeals rejected his petition citing the CON law was not unconstitutional with his situation.
Dr. Jay Singleton, an ophthalmologist and owner of Singleton Vision Center in New Bern, was denied his request to strike down N.C.'s "Certificate of Need" law on June 21. The doctor hoped to his expand his eye care service, and N.C. Court of Appeals rejected his petition citing the CON law was not unconstitutional with his situation.

A New Bern eye doctor lost a lawsuit he filed against the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services — claiming a medical law blocked him from expanding his eye surgery service.

Dr. Jay Singleton, owner of Singleton Vision Center in New Bern, was denied his request to the North Carolina Court of Appeals on June 21 petitioning the state to abolish the "Certificate of Need" (CON) law, an opinion from the court reads.

The law prohibits healthcare facilities from adding, acquiring, or replacing healthcare services or equipment without prior authorization by the NCDHHS, according to the N.C. Institute of Medicine.

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Singleton was heard in front of a three-judge panel on March 22, and the trio decided last week the state's CON law doesn't violate the ophthalmologist's constitutional rights as applied to his situation, the opinion says.

Lawsuit dismissed: Appeals Court declared "CON" law was constitutional

On April 22, 2020, Singleton filed a lawsuit against NCDHHS and executive and legislative branch leaders claiming he was unable to expand his medical practice and provide less costly surgeries, according to the opinion.

The New Bern doctor, who founded Singleton Vision Center in 2014, performs the majority of his outpatient surgeries at CarolinaEast Medical Center.

CarolinaEast is the only licensed provider with an operating room certificate to assist Craven, Jones and Pamlico Counties. CarolinaEast representatives told Singleton they will disapprove any application he may submit for an additional operating room within the tri-county area, the opinion reads.

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Singleton's lawsuit was dismissed on June 11, 2021 by Superior Court Judge Michael O'Foghludha. The judge agreed with state officials' attorneys who argued Singleton's requests to block enforcement of the CON law and declare it unconstitutional as it applies to him could not be granted by the court, the opinion states.

Appeals Judge: 'Failed' to appeal lack of due process

N.C. Court of Appeals Judge John Tyson said Singleton and his practice failed to appeal or attempt to appeal "statutory and administrative remedies available to them" that could be used as evidence to show he was deprived of procedural due process, according to the opinion.

"The remedy [Singleton and his practice] admittedly and essentially seek is for a fact-finding administrative record and decision thereon to be cast aside and a CON to be summarily issued to them by the court," Tyson said in the opinion. "This we cannot do."

Judges Toby Hampson and Jeffery Carpenter agreed with Tyson's decision, but Tyson added the ruling doesn't prevent other medical practices from challenging the CON law in the future, the opinion reads.

According to the opinion, legislators declared that requiring authorization of health services based on need, cost of services and other considerations promotes the health and lives of people in North Carolina.

Reporter Symone Graham covers local public safety for the Sun Journal. Have a story tip or idea? Send it her way at sgraham@gannett.com

This article originally appeared on Sun Journal: N.C. Court of Appeals won't strike down medical law for New Bern eye doctor