Give and take: Forum offers chance for hospital discoursePublished 7:29pm Saturday, September 21, 2013
Vidant Health, some Belhaven-area residents and others know what they want to accomplish at a Tuesday public forum on the future of Vidant Pungo Hospital and health-care delivery in the area served by the hospital.
The forum begins at 7 p.m. Tuesday at the Wilkinson Center, 144 W. Main St., Belhaven.
“I am glad that Vidant and the town of Belhaven finally meet. This should have happened a long time ago, and in my opinion interaction between the town and its largest employer should be an ongoing matter of routine,” said Ulrich Alsentzer, a retired doctor and Belhaven resident. “That said, I don’t expect that any concrete solutions to the looming loss of access to care will result from this meeting. Rather, I think that Vidant will state its position, possibly provide some reasons for its decision and that the population will have an opportunity to voice their concerns. The format of the meeting seems to be mainly of the Q/A nature, without providing an opportunity for debate, but I may be wrong on that.”
Alsentzer said he would like to see the meeting result in the beginning of an ongoing discussion and negotiations during which the needs of both sides can be addressed — and met to the satisfaction of both sides.
Alsentzer has been circulating a petition noting the concerns people in eastern Beaufort County and Hyde County have regarding the plant to close the hospital and the future of health care in the Belhaven area.
“Specifically, there needs to be a provision for keeping emergency room level capabilities available at all times in Belhaven. While circulating the resolution, I heard many times that lives had been saved by having the ER here in Belhaven, lives that in all likelihood could not have been saved if the nearest ER had been another 45 minutes away, like the one in Washington,” Alsentzer said. “Further specifics need to be provided as to the nature of the planned ‘multi-specialty clinic’ and its capabilities, the number and kind of the specialist working there … and where it will be located. In my opinion, a location as close to the downtown as possible is the most desirable, otherwise the fledgling businesses in that area will suffer, and with it a lot of ‘good will’ toward Vidant’s future operations could be lost.”
Vidant Health issued a statement concerning what its officials, including Vidant Health CEO and President Dr. David Herman, who attend the forum want to accomplish during the forum.
“The intent of the public forum is for us to share our plans for continued health care delivery in the area and listen to community members. Following Dr. Herman’s opening presentation, the floor will be opened up to comments from community members. Attendees will be offered the opportunity to sign up to speak for three-minute time slots when they arrive at the meeting,” reads the statement.
Vidant Health also addressed its plans for hospital employees who may find other jobs in the Vidant Health network or lose their jobs.
“We are working to place all Vidant Pungo Hospital staff in other positions across the Vidant Health system. All placements are being coordinated through Vidant Health Human Resources. We are also providing assistance with resume writing, interview skills and other job search related needs to assist those who choose not to continue employment with Vidant Health. If we are unable to place employees in other positions, there will be packages offered. They will be individualized depending on the employee’s years of service and salary,” wrote Vidant Health spokeswomen Beth Anne Atkins in an email.
Bea Dillon, who lives at Smith Shores outside of Belhaven and worked at Pungo District Hospital from 1980 to 1986, plans to attend the forum.
“What I hope this forum will accomplish — whether Vidant Pungo remains or not – folks from Belhaven and surrounding areas, Hyde County and visitors coming through our area are offered more than basic care. If a medical facility is built, I want it to be able to handle more than just general medical process and procedure. I want to know it can stabilize a person with a heart attack or stroke — administering the drugs that are so vital in the early stages. Can the Vidant executives promise that?” Dillon said. “I want to know they can save a person who may be ‘bleeding out’ either from something internal or a limb that has been severed by accident.”
Dillon continued: “My first question I would like to ask Vidant Health officials is why? Why, when the financial situation of Pungo District Hospital has been an open book with Pitt Memorial Hospital/East Carolina Health Services/University Health Systems/Vidant for years, why, when you knew the location of the hospital, the age of the hospital, the financial situation of the hospital, the financial situation of the town, the number of residents of Belhaven that receive public assistance, why did you make a promise and then decide to close — close what was already a working hospital?”
Dillon believes there are other options that need exploring, including possibly finding a way to utilize the hospital’s emergency room.
“My greatest fear is that the hospital will close and the proposed medical clinic will not be enough,” Dillon said.