They kept their wordPublished 9:14pm Thursday, November 7, 2013
In September, the Beaufort County Board of Commissioners unanimously voted to support the Town of Belhaven in its effort to retain full emergency-room services for whatever medical facility the town ends up with in light of Vidant Health’s plans to close Vidant Pungo Hospital.
On Monday, the commissioners voted to table action on an offer by Vidant Health to provide the county up to $500,000 to help transition the county’s EMS system to the paramedic level during the next several years. That decision may or may not be in the best interest of providing improved EMS efforts in the county, but time will tell.
It’s admirable the commissioners are sticking with their decision to support Belhaven. The commissioners rejected the offer as a show of solidarity with the Town of Belhaven, which is rejecting the offer. Belhaven Mayor Adam O’Neal pleaded with the commissioners not to accept the offer.
O’Neal made quite an impassioned plea.
O’Neal said Vidant Health’s offer of $500,000 to elevate the county EMS system to the paramedic level does not meet the needs of the Belhaven area and its residents. They need a full-service emergency room, not a clinic, he said.
Earlier this year, Vidant Health announced it would close Vidant Pungo Hospital and replace it with an around-the-clock multispecialty clinic. That decision has Belhaven and Beaufort County officials and residents concerned about the delivery of health care, including EMS, in Belhaven and surrounding areas.
Commissioner Hood Richardson said if the county accepts the Vidant Health offer, it would be “cutting Belhaven’s throat.” By accepting the offer, Richardson said, the county would be removing Belhaven’s ability to negotiate with Vidant Health concerning health care in the Belhaven area.
“We’re in the position here of prostituting ourselves for $500,000. I guess it gets down to what are you worth. I can’t vote for this because it is harming the Belhaven area and their ability to determine the direction they want to go in and need to go in,” Richardson said.
He just might be right.
Belcher said accepting the offer would problems.
“I think it’s driving a wedge between the Town of Belhaven and the county commissioners. We passed a resolution … saying we would support the Town of Belhaven and the citizens of eastern North Carolina in their efforts to retain an emergency room. I feel like if we vote for this $500,000, that we’re not holding up to the resolution that we passed a month ago.”
That’s hitting the nail on the head, Mr. Belcher.
The commissioners showed their conviction on this issue is rock solid with their decision to keep their promise to Belhaven.
Belhaven residents and others can take comfort in that.