Hospital update on board’s agendaPublished 7:00pm Saturday, March 8, 2014
Belhaven Mayor Adam O’Neal is scheduled to provide an update on plans to keep the Belhaven hospital open to the Beaufort County Board of Commissioners during its meeting Monday.
Vidant Health plans to close Vidant Pungo Hospital next month and replace it with a 24-hour, seven-days-a week multi-specialty clinic that would take about 18 months to build. Many Belhaven residents and others in the hospital’s service area don’t want the hospital to close, fearing the closure would result a reduced level of medical care in the community.
On Friday, Commissioner Hood Richardson said he doesn’t know specifically what O’Neal might ask of the commissioners Monday, but he’s willing to listen.
“It depends on what he wants. He’s sent in all of this financial stuff, and I think what he’s wanting is for the commissioners to find a way to help him with the $3 million. That’s my impression,” Richardson said. “I don’t know what we’ll do. We’ll have to look and see. … We have not been enthusiastic about putting more money into another hospital.”
“Oh, no, not by any stretch of the imagination,” Richardson said when asked if the county providing money to help keep Belhaven’s hospital open has been ruled out.
At 7 p.m. Tuesday, the Belhaven Board of Aldermen will meet in special called session to conduct a forum concerning efforts to support keeping the hospital open. The meeting will take place at the Belhaven Civic Center.
A notice about the meeting reads: “There will be an update on efforts being made to obtain County Commissioners’ support and an update concerning the Civil Rights Complaint filed by the NAACP. Rev. William Barber, president of the NC NAACP will be a speaker.”
Last month, the Town of Belhaven hired the law firm of Ward and Smith to represent its legal interests regarding the hospital, including whether Vidant Health fulfilled its contractual obligations related to taking over the hospital. Vidant Health, through a written statement, contends it has met its contractual obligations.
The town’s Board of Aldermen and Rural Community Hospitals of America LLC have developed a town-funded business plan that includes several options for an entity to take over the hospital’s management and operations from Vidant Health.
In September 2013, the county commissioners unanimously voted to support Belhaven’s attempt 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. In early January, local and state NAACP officials on Tuesday filed a Title VI discrimination complaint concerning Vidant Health’s plan to close the hospital
The complaint was filed by Bill Booth, president of the Beaufort County NAACP; Michael Adams, president of the Hyde County NAACP; and William Barber II, president of the North Carolina NAACP. The complaint was filed with a federal civil-rights office in Atlanta.