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Dole makes Washington stop on eastern N.C. tour

By Staff
Advocates for eastern N.C. hospitals
By DAN PARSONS
Staff Writer
U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Dole visited Washington Saturday for a tour of the Beaufort County Hospital expansion.
She is working in Congress to pass a bill that would save North Carolina hospitals $300 million for Medicaid services. That money will no longer be available from the federal government if in May the definition of a public hospital is altered — bringing the number of facilities that provide medical care to the poor and uninsured from 45 to two.
Beaufort County Hospital would stand to lose about $1.7 million this year in Medicaid-service reimbursements if it were no longer defined as a public hospital, Dole said. She and her congressional colleagues are trying to extend for one year the life of the legislation that categorizes the hospitals as public.
Bill Bedsole, the hospital’s chief executive officer, said that medical care may suffer if the hospital loses its classification as public.
Losing $1.7 million in revenue would force the hospital administration to not offer certain services to make up for the loss, he said.
Dole said that’s the reason she is spearheading the effort in Congress — to ensure the continued availability of medical care to poor and uninsured North Carolinians. That the hospitals currently enjoy the benefits as public institutions Dole called a “ major accomplishment,” but said she couldn’t have done it without the help of her colleagues in Washington.
Dole sat down for the interview after touring the interior of the hospitals modernization and expansion project. The 38,600-square-foot addition will include a new lobby, surgical suite and supporting space. The expansion is scheduled to be completed in fall of this year. It’s completion coincides with the 50th year the hospital has been in operation.
Says “broad support” necessary for OLF in N.C.
By DAN PARSONS
Staff Writer
North Carolina Senior Senator Elizabeth Dole praised the Navy’s decision to abandon its plans to build an outlying landing field in Washington and Beaufort counties and restated a promise to oppose any OLF site that doesn’t have “broad local support.” Dole’s comments came during a visit to Beaufort County Hospital on Saturday.
On Tuesday, the Navy announced it would abandon plans to build an outlying landing field in Washington and Beaufort counties. It was also announced that two new North Carolina sites, one each in Camden and Gates counties in the northeast portion of the state, would be considered for the OLF.
Dole said she would support opposition to the newly identified sites, which will now undergo an environmental study estimated to take up to 30 months.
Site C met with strong opposition from local residents and environmental groups because of its proximity to the Pocosin Lakes National Wildlife Refuge, winter home to tens of thousands of migratory waterfowl.
Saturday, North Carolina’s senior senator said she had been in contact with local officials and residents in Gates and Camden counties since those sights were unveiled by the Navy last September.
Dole met with members of North Carolinians Opposing the Outlying Landing Field and a former bird-aricraft-strike-hazard expert about an OLF at Site C in December 2003, according to Doris Morris, NO-OLF communications director. Morris said in an interview Saturday that Dole did little to help the group keep an OLF from their backyards at that point, saying her staffers “basically told us to deal with it.”
Dole maintains that her delayed official opposition to an OLF at Site C was the ultimate result of an information-gathering campaign which she helped lead. Still, when the Navy held its public hearing on the issue in Washington County in early April 2007, residents altered their NO OLF signs to read NO DOLE, indicating that they still lack the support of their senior senator in their fight against the landing field.
Dole came out in opposition of the site after a public hearing in Charlotte in April 2007. She requested the hearing be added to a court-ordered series of seven held by the Navy across eastern North Carolina.
Three proposed OLF sites in Virginia were pegged Tuesday along with the Gates County and Camden County sites. Dole Saturday she did not think an OLF in Virginia would jeopardize the two squadrons of F/A-18 Super Hornets that are scheduled to be based at Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point in Havelock. Cherry Point has the capacity to train pilots of up to three squadrons without needing an additional OLF.