Archived Story

Pungo District Hospital

Published 5:21pm Saturday, September 14, 2013

To the Editor:

I write today to mourn the loss of an old friend — Pungo District Hospital. 

In November of 2009, I had knee replacement surgery at the Beaufort County Hospital on my left knee. After three days, I was transferred to the Pungo District Hospital for physical therapy. I have to admit I had some concerns. They were soon alleviated, when I found that this small, rural hospital had a regionally recognized rehabilitation department. My room was spacious and I had a view of the Pungo River. I soon discovered that the staff was kind and caring. My stay there was a very pleasant experience.

I had my second knee replacement surgery on my right knee in November of 2010.  Even though physical therapy is a painful experience, I found myself actually looking forward to my return to Pungo District Hospital. As expected, I again received the same loving care.

I was saddened to learn recently that Vidant Health System will close this hospital in Belhaven within six months and that about 100 employees are expected to lose their jobs. Vidant made it abundantly clear that the hospital’s closing was caused by the Republican controlled legislature’s passage of a law early this year, which Governor Pat McCrory signed, that denied health insurance to about 500,000 low-income people under Medicaid. The funding for this expansion of Medicaid would have been paid for under the federal Affordable Care Act.

The Belhaven area and adjacent Hyde County have a large population of low-income people, who have no health insurance. Many of these people would have qualified for Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act and revenue would have been flowing into Pungo District Hospital. Without this money, it was doomed to fail.

It appears that some civic leaders in Belhaven and Beaufort County have failed to understand why this facility is closing. Instead of blaming Vidant, they should place the blame squarely where it belongs with Governor Pat McCrory and the Republican controlled legislature. They were amply warned of the severe financial burden this would place on our medical facilities, both large and small. The likely effects on them will be loss of income, reduction in services, increased borrowing cost and an increase in the cost of medical services. Now, the chickens have come home to roost.

Since my surgeries, I have resumed my normal life.  But, in the back of my mind, I have always thought that if my health ever failed me again, I could look forward to returning to that wonderful small hospital. That dream has now died.

Stephen A. Graves

Blounts Creek

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