Hospital to remain openPublished 6:38pm Thursday, March 27, 2014
Vidant Pungo Hospital will not close April 1.
Vidant Health, which had planned to close the Belhaven Hospital next week, the N.C. NAACP and the NAACP branches in Beaufort and Hyde counties reached an agreement that would keep the hospital open as a new entity to own and operate the hospital is sought.
“Vidant Pungo Hospital and its emergency facilities will remain open and operated by Vidant Health through July 1, 2014. Over the next three months, Vidant Health will work with the community to help them establish a representative community-based board that will accept full operating control of the hospital in a transfer by July 1, 2014,” reads the announcement regarding the agreement.
Hospital employees have been notified they will retain their jobs through June 30.
The announcement further states “we hope virtually all of them will retain their positions when the newly-formed Pungo District Hospital Board takes over the operation of the hospital by that date. We understand that the uncertainty surrounding the future of the hospital in Belhaven, N.C. has been stressful for the employees of the hospital and the community at large. We want to assure the hospital’s employees and community that both parties are committed to the terms of this agreement.”
Belhaven Mayor Adam O’Neal, one of the people leading the effort to keep the hospital open, is ecstatic with the agreement, but noted there is much work to be done to keep the hospital open.
“It’s going say that Vidant, the NAACP and Belhaven have pledged to work together to return the hospital to local control. The goal is to seek help locally, statewide and nationally for efforts to make the Belhaven hospital a model for rural health-care hospital,” O’Neal said.
A newly revamped hospital in Belhaven could help save other rural hospitals, O’Neal said.
“The reality is there are certain methods to handle rural hospitals that would make them more successful, and were going to work with officials in many capacities to try to come up with a model that can be used statewide, or maybe even nationwide. The NAACP sees this as an opportunity to use Belhaven to help figure out a model that can help save hospitals across the country,” O’Neal said.
Vidant Health and the N.C. NAACP will jointly participate in a community meeting at 6 p.m. Thursday in Belhaven. The site of the meeting will be announced.
The announcement continues: “We hope to be able to share with the public and the media more details of this wonderful news at that time. Today, however, let us rejoice. The Vidant Pungo Hospital is open. Vidant Health and local community leaders are working together to maintain and strengthen the present hospital, with the possibility of it being a model rural community hospital in the east, and perhaps in the nation.
“We wish to thank Mayor Adam O’Neal of Belhaven, health policy analyst Adam Linker from the N.C. Justice Center, and the Community Relations Service of the U.S. Department of Justice for their assistance in reaching this Agreement.”