Pungo inks deal

Published 12:31 am Saturday, October 1, 2011

Hospital officials from Belhaven and Greenville unveiled a new sign Friday reflecting the change at Pungo District Hospital. Pictured (from left) are Jay D. “Rocky” Jacobs, president of the Pungo District Hospital Board of Trustees; Dr. Charles Boyette, hospital chief of staff; Dave McRae, chief executive officer of University Health Systems of Eastern Carolina; Ken Ragland, chief executive officer of Pungo District Hospital, and Harvey Case, incoming president of University Health Systems Pungo Hospital. (Contributed Photo courtesy University Health Systems)

UHS takes control of second hospital in Beaufort County

In a ceremony marking the occasion Friday morning, officials from University Health Systems of Eastern Carolina signed an agreement with Pungo District Hospital in Belhaven, making it the second hospital in Beaufort County to come under UHS control in the last month.

Also on Friday, hospital officials announced the retirement of Ken Ragland, Pungo District Hospital chief executive officer, and the appointment of Beaufort Hospital President Harvey Case as president of the renamed University Health Systems – Pungo Hospital. Case, the former head of Duplin General Hospital, was named to head Beaufort Hospital in Washington following the takeover of its management by UHS on Sept. 1.

The agreement was described by Jay D. “Rocky” Jacobs, president of the Pungo District Hospital Board of Trustees, as the “third milestone” in the history of the hospital, a critical-access facility for 49 beds that serves the people of eastern Beaufort County and the Hyde County mainland.

He said Friday’s agreement follows only the hospital membership incorporation in 1947 and its opening two years later in importance.

“The legacy those people created with the opening of the hospital 62 years ago was to provide appropriate medical care to the people of Belhaven, eastern Beaufort County and mainland Hyde County and that has been a legacy this hospital has tried to fulfill in the years since,” Jacobs told the Daily News. “This agreement assures the continuation of appropriate medical services for the community, for that community in the future.”

Jacobs also said the agreement will preserve jobs and ensure that area doctors have a facility where they can practice medicine and address the health-care needs of the community.

The agreement with the Belhaven hospital brings to nine the number of hospitals in eastern North Carolina that are under the UHS umbrella – either through majority membership interests or management agreements – and is the second one signed by UHS with a Beaufort County hospital in the last two months. A lease/purchase agreement that turned over management of the hospital in Washington was effective earlier this month.

In addition to Pungo, hospitals now affiliated with UHS include Albemarle Health, Beaufort Hospital, Bertie Memorial Hospital, Chowan Hospital, Duplin General Hospital, Heritage Hospital, Outer Banks Hospital, Roanoke-Chowan Hospital and UHS Medical Center, formerly Pitt County Memorial Hospital.

An Aug. 25 vote by members of the Pungo District Hospital Corp. amended the private membership corporation’s bylaws allowing the hospital’s board of trustees to negotiate with UHS, clearing the way for Friday’s action.

That vote by the Belhaven-based organization came the same night the Beaufort County Board of Commissioners and the boards that oversee the operations of Beaufort Regional Health System approved an affiliation between BRHS and UHS.

But unlike the discussions about the future of the Washington hospital, which were protracted and often contentious and pitted one group of suitors against another, the discussions over the future of the Belhaven hospital were reported to be amiable.

“This could not have happened without the support of the hospital staff, the medical staff and the community,” Jacobs said. “They have all worked together over the last few months to make this agreement possible.”

Some aspects of the agreement between the Belhaven hospital, renamed University Health Systems – Pungo Hospital, and UHS are similar to the agreement between UHS and its hospital in Washington.

As with the Washington hospital, the Belhaven hospital will be a subsidiary of East Carolina Health, which oversees the operations of UHS-affiliated hospitals. A directors council will advise East Carolina Health on the operations of the hospital.

Most of the members of the Pungo District Hospital Board of Trustees will continue as members of the new entity’s directors council, Jacobs said.

And as with the Washington hospital, all of the Belhaven hospital’s employees were given the chance to continue their employment with UHS, Jacobs said.

But differences exist between the two agreements.

Because Pungo District Hospital was a private corporation, a third group, Pantego Creek LLC, was created to protect the interests of the former membership corporation.