Archived Story

Taking a toll

Published 5:25pm Thursday, October 10, 2013

The closing of Vidant Pungo Hospital in Belhaven could cost Beaufort County more than just dollars when it comes to providing emergency medical services to Belhaven and surrounding nearby areas.

The closing of the hospital likely would take a toll on volunteers who provide EMS coverage for Belhaven, other areas in Pantego Township and in Hyde County, according to John Pack, Beaufort County’s emergency-services director. Pack spoke to the Beaufort County Board of Commissioners during its meeting Monday, providing his views on how the closing of the hospital could affect EMS coverage.

Vidant Health announced last month it plans to close the hospital and replace it with a new around-the-clock multispecialty clinic. Pack talked about how the gap between the hospital’s closing and the opening of the new clinic could influence EMS coverage.

Pack is concerned with how longer turn-around times for volunteer EMS personnel (making trips to Vidant Beaufort Hospital instead of the Belhaven hospital) could affect those volunteers. Fewer volunteer EMS personnel would exacerbate the problem with longer patient-transport trips, he said.

“Volunteer squads — everyone thinks they’re not going to be impacted, but when you start talking about the wear and tear on their vehicles, the fuel costs — what used to be Pamlico Beach (rescue) taking out of Pamlico Beach and going up to Vidant Pungo and being back at Pamlico Beach in 47 minutes to 60 minutes is now going to be increased at least by another half hour, maybe longer,” Pack said. “That is wear and tear on vehicles and additional fuel costs. Remember, these ambulances, if we’re lucky, they get four miles to the gallon. So, there is going to additional costs there.”

Pack said there’s another “cost” that must be considered.

“There’s also additional wear and tear on the families and the loved ones of volunteers. People sometimes don’t remember when you take off you’re going to be gone two hours or more. It can impact your employer. People who are anywhere close to the time when they’re supposed to be going to work are not going to answer that call because they’re worried about missing work.”


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