Overview: Vidant Pungo Hospital closing

Published 5:10 pm Monday, January 20, 2014

The decision to close Vidant Pungo Hospital and replace it with an around-the-clock multispecialty clinic was announced in early September 2013. That announcement was the catalyst for rallies in support of keeping the hospital open, a forum conducted by Vidant Health officials to explain the decision to close the hospital and meetings between Vidant Health officials and local government officials to explore possible options related to providing health care as the hospital prepares to close.

Belhaven officials, especially Mayor Adam O’Neal, oppose the closing of the hospital and make it clear that if the hospital closes they want the new clinic replacing it to have a full-service emergency room. Vidant Health officials indicate that likely won’t happen. Belhaven officials contend Vidant Health was not upfront with the town and its residents concerning the hospital’s future when it took over ownership and management of the hospital several years ago

A primary concern of Belhaven officials, residents and others in the area served by Vidant Pungo Hospital is how the closing will affect emergency medical services in the hospital’s service area. They worry that longer response times and transport times to other medical facilities will result in lives lost.

Even offers by Vidant Health to help pay for enhancements to the area’s EMS efforts were seen by some people as nothing more than “hush” money.

In September 2013, 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.

In early November 2013, 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.

The proposed clinic planned for Belhaven after Vidant Pungo Hospital closes will be built between the post office and Food Lion shopping center, according to Vidant Health officials.

Last month, Vidant Health purchased 19.4 acres in the town for the new multispecialty clinic that would be open 24 hours a day. The clinic will be located at 601 Old County Road. The land is south of U.S. Highway 264.

It will take about 18 months to design and build the new 12,000-square-foot clinic, according to Vidant Health. The project cost is $4.2 million. The clinic grounds will include a helipad for air transport to a hospital such as Vidant Medical Center in Greenville.

The new multispecialty clinic will offer primary and specialty care, urgent and emergent care 24-hours a day, according to Vidant Health. The new facility will treat patients regardless of their ability to pay.

Once the current hospital closes, physician and outpatient services will be made available at the Vidant Medical Group practices in Belhaven. Twenty-four hour care will be available at Vidant Family Medicine on Haslin Street in Belhaven. Primary and specialty care will be offered at the Vidant Family Medicine locations on Allen and Water streets in Belhaven.

About Mike Voss

Mike Voss is the contributing editor at the Washington Daily News. He has a daughter and four grandchildren. Except for nearly six years he worked at the Free Lance-Star in Fredericksburg, Va., in the early to mid-1990s, he has been at the Daily News since April 1986.
Journalism awards:
• Pulitzer Prize for Meritorious Public Service, 1990.
• Society of Professional Journalists: Sigma Delta Chi Award, Bronze Medallion.
• Associated Press Managing Editors’ Public Service Award.
• Investigative Reporters & Editors’ Award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Public Service Award, 1989.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Investigative Reporting, 1990.
All those were for the articles he and Betty Gray wrote about the city’s contaminated water system in 1989-1990.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Investigative Reporting, 1991.
• North Carolina Press Association, Third Place, General News Reporting, 2005.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Lighter Columns, 2006.
Recently learned he will receive another award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Lighter Columns, 2010.
4. Lectured at or served on seminar panels at journalism schools at UNC-Chapel Hill, University of Maryland, Columbia University, Mary Washington University and Francis Marion University.

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