Archived Story

Grassroots efforts to save hospital call for improved care

Published 6:45pm Tuesday, September 10, 2013

BELHAVEN – Schram’s Beach resident Ulrich Alsentzer sprung into action the minute he heard of Vidant’s plans to close Vidant Pungo.
“My first thought was there’s this huge population out there which really doesn’t have adequate access to transportation,” he said after last week’s rally.
Guinn Leverett, Belhaven’s town manager, said the local reaction has spawned several grassroots efforts. He counted the mayor’s rally last week at the top of the list.
“We’re doing all of this just to have our voices heard,” Leverett said. “And they can’t ignore this.”
Mayor Adam O’Neal called for the rally in order to have his concerns heard by officials at Vidant who, up to that point, had been unreachable.
“The only way we can talk to them is the press,” Leverett said. “But, if they try to play footsy with us, then we’ll take all of this to Greenville.”
Alsentzer drafted a resolution to keep Vidant Pungo District Hospital open. He circulated copies of the resolution and collected signatures on attached petitions he planned to present to Vidant officials.
“I hope I can rattle them enough that they put their thinking caps on and come out with a solution,” he said. “I can’t just sit here and not do anything.”
Alsentzer is a retired physician who specialized in physical medicine and rehabilitation.
His resolution pointed out that Beaufort County ranked poorly in state and nationwide health rankings and that Beaufort County was one of the poorest counties in the state.
He said the county had no scheduled public transportation available to take residents to Washington or Greenville for medical services. The current system of public transportation was an all-day ordeal that was not practical for most people.
The resolution went one step further by asking for Vidant to improve its care and focus on Belhaven’s growing elderly population.
“I see that the population of this county is aging and the young folks are moving away because there are no jobs,” he said. “I would challenge Vidant to tweak the hospital, tweak the hospital services to specialize in caring for the elderly.”
Alsentzer asked that Vidant look at this as an opportunity to improve services, not replace them.
“That’s the need here, aside from kids, older people is where the emphasis of care is needed,” he said. “And if they do this right, Belhaven has so much potential. But that requires a lot of vision.”

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