Rev. William Barber II, president of the North Carolina State Conference of the NAACP, speaks at Belhaven’s rally against the closure of Vidant Pungo Hospital Wednesday afternoon. MONA MOORE | DAILY NEWS
Rev. William Barber II, president of the North Carolina State Conference of the NAACP, speaks at Belhaven’s rally against the closure of Vidant Pungo Hospital Wednesday afternoon.
MONA MOORE | DAILY NEWS

Archived Story

Belhaven rally poses options against Vidant

Published 10:41pm Wednesday, October 30, 2013

BELHAVEN – Johnny Davis and Ann Potter say they were the first set of twins born in Vidant Pungo District Hospital. They attended Wednesday afternoon’s rally to save their birthplace.
Potter had a closer tie to the hospital. She said the hospital kept her diabetic daughter alive long enough for her to say goodbye.
“I’m proud of Pungo District Hospital and we need to keep it here,” she said.
Town officials held the rally in front of the Municipal Building downtown. Potter said she was disappointed by the attendance at the 3:30 p.m. rally. She told the crowd gathered that there should have been so many people in the streets of Belhaven that they were bumping elbows.
“Now, I guarantee you, if there was a new restaurant coming to town, you would see everybody here,” she said after the rally. “I’m ashamed of them. It’s breaking my heart.”
With the help of the NAACP, the people of Belhaven set an agenda to save their hospital.
At Wednesday’s rally, Rev. William Barber II, president of the North Carolina State Conference of the NAACP, reminded those in attendance that Pungo hospital had been around for 60 years.
“How many lives have been saved?” he asked.
Barber laid out the town’s agenda.
First on the agenda, is to continue to ask officials with Vidant Health to meet with officials from Belhaven. Barber said the NAACP had already asked and would join town officials on their effort to get a formal meeting with the hospital system.
Barber said one of the main issues at hand was North Carolina’s refusal to be involved in the expansion of Medicaid. Rural hospitals would be most affected by the decision because of the lost funds.
“That put a strain on our hospitals,” he said. “We were the first to get hit by hurricanes, the first to get floods… now, they want us to be the first to go without healthcare. That ain’t right.”
The NAACP will rally for the state to have a special session on Medicaid expansion and rectify the matter.
“What we’re not going to do is we’re not going to let people be denied healthcare,” he said.
Barber said he would call on Congressman G.K. Butterfield to show how the people of his district were being disenfranchised.
Vidant’s plan to build a clinic in Belhaven was not good enough, according to Barber. He said, unlike an emergency room, a clinic is not federally mandated to treat everyone in need of medical attention. Under the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act, emergency rooms must treat people, regardless of their ability to pay.
“We’ve learned something in civil rights. You can’t trust what people say, you need the law,” Barber said. “That doesn’t mean we think all Vidant people are bad. We just want a law that ensures they are good.”
Barber’s final plan was for Belhaven to consider filing a class action lawsuit against Vidant Health.
“It’s already been estimated that 2,000 people will die without proper medical care. This is a matter of life and death. … They are human beings,” he said. “Instead of trying to constantly build more things in Greenville, they could do something to protect Beaufort and Hyde County.”
Barber said he would return to Belhaven for another rally, this time on a Saturday when more people could attend. He invited people to attend the Dec. 23 rally the NAACP would have that he hoped would turn out to be a celebration of the “redemption session” he was calling for the state to have.
Barber asked that people text “NAACP” to 46988 so that residents would stay informed of the progress made. He also said he would disseminate contact information for members of congress.
“We need you to start calling them and register your discontent,” he said. “The power is in us being connected and staying together.”

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