Archived Story

Belhaven hospital closing

Published 5:23pm Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Out with the old, in with the new.

Vidant Pungo Hospital will be closed and replaced with a multispecialty clinic that will be open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, the Vidant Community Hospitals board decided Wednesday.

Plans call for a phased closing of the hospital in Belhaven over the next five or six months.

“Leadership at Vidant Health has put great thought into making this decision. They have studied the issues carefully and reviewed current usage data. They have met with our local director’s council and have provided us with information regarding various models of care.  The best sustainable model of care for our community is the 24/7 multispecialty care facility,” said Rocky Jacobs, chairman of the Vidant Pungo Hospital Director’s Council. “I am pleased that around-the-clock quality health-care services will continue to be provided to eastern Beaufort County and mainland Hyde County, and I am excited about the new health-care facility that we will have in our community.”

Vidant Community Hospitals manages the eight community hospitals in the Vidant Health family. The Vidant Pungo Hospital Director’s Council serves as an advisory panel to Vidant Community Hospitals, Jacobs said in an interview Wednesday afternoon.

Belhaven Mayor Adam O’Neal is extremely unhappy with plans to close the hospital, which has been in Belhaven since 1947.

“My reaction is this is totally unsatisfactory. To my knowledge, at this point, there’s going to be a period of time where the town has no hospital or no urgent care,” O’Neal said Wednesday morning. “There’s going to be a gap. I’m concerned that people might die.”

O’Neal expressed concern that Belhaven residents and others in the hospital’s service area will go without quality health care while Vidant Health executives benefit from the hospital’s closure.

“To put people at risk so the Vidant corporate executives can get seven-figure bonuses is immoral,” O’Neal said,

The rally to show support for the hospital will take place at 6 p.m. today in downtown Belhaven, O’Neal said.

“I’d like to invite the CEO of Vidant to come down and explain to the people why they don’t deserve health care at a level that he has,” O’Neal said.

Dr. David Herman, CEO and president of Vidant Health, said Vidant Health is committed to providing affordable health care in Belhaven and surrounding communities.

“We must seek affordable and sustainable solutions for health care delivery to ensure the people in this region have access to care,” Herman said about the decision.

As services at the hospital are shut down, they will be offered at area Vidant Medical Group physician’s offices. Those services include specialty clinics, 24-hour-a-day care, laboratories, radiology and physical therapy.

Vidant Health expects to break ground on the new multispecialty clinic later this year. The new facility is expected to take about 18 months to complete.

“When Vidant Pungo Hospital joined the system in 2011, officials knew that there must be a long-term plan related to the current facility, due to environmental and structural concerns. The building is more than 60 years old and is located in an area prone to flooding,” reads part of a Vidant Health news release on the decision reached Wednesday.

“We are committed to providing care locally in Belhaven and will be investing more than $4 million with this new facility to ensure access to care,” Herman said.

Belhaven-area residents and residents of mainland Hyde County may access other hospitals within the Vidant Health system — Vidant Beaufort Hospital in Washington and The Outer Banks Hospital in Nags Head. If patients and families need a higher level of care, the new clinic will have a helipad, allowing for air transport to Vidant Medical Center in Greenville.

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