County asked to help save hospital — Three commissioners to study issue and make suggestions to full board
Published 6:01 pm Tuesday, March 11, 2014
Three Beaufort County commissioners will investigate if it’s feasible for the county to help Belhaven save its hospital — then make a report to the other commissioners for possible action.
During the next several days, commissioners Hood Richardson, Gary Brinn and Al Klemm will meet with Belhaven officials and others to determine if the county should provide financial assistance for the effort to keep Vidant Pungo Hospital open. Vidant Health plans to close the hospital next month. Belhaven officials and others have been seeking a way to keep the hospital open so Belhaven-area residents have access to emergency medical care around the clock.
The three commissioners will meet at 2 p.m. Thursday at the county administrative offices, 121 W. Third St., Washington.
Belhaven Mayor Adam O’Neal appeared before the Beaufort County Board of Commissioners on Monday to ask for the county’s help. O’Neal action must be taken quickly to keep the hospital open. Pantego Creek LLC has been seeking a way to keep the hospital open. O’Neal referred to a business plan that indicates that if an initial $3 million can be raised, that would be enough to keep the hospital open and set it up to continue operating for an initial period of time.
Pantego Creek LLC, which has five managing members and represents the former membership of Pungo District Hospital Corp. 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.
“At the last Pantego Creek LLC meeting, I was not satisfied that people got all the information they needed. I believe if the county was involved and had an idea that we would be successful, I think Pantego Creek LLC would be amiable to whatever needs to be done,” O’Neal said. “I everybody, truly, wants to see the hospital (saved.) I think at the LLC meeting, there was some false information put out about arbitration and about going after Vidant to make them do what the contract said do. We had an attorney that was absolutely certain that there are going to be damages coming our way to help get this $3 million.”
O’Neal continued his plea: “What I would like to see is some way for the county to come in an say, ‘Look, let us help you with this.’ I would also like to see Hyde County get involved.”
O’Neal said if Vidant Health closes the hospital April 1, “we’re going to lose our critical-access hospital designation. If you lose that designation, you’re done because that gives you some special reimbursements that other hospitals don’t get. You cannot have that designation go away.”
O’Neal said the three commissioners need to meet right away so they can report back to the full board by early next week.
“Because if you are able to do something, we’d have to get with Pantego Creek LLC right away to try to figure out a solution. I do think those people would be open to talking if they felt pretty sure … if whether there was going to be a successful guarantee,” the mayor said.
“Even though this is a very, very long shot, my opinion is we would be unduly harsh if we told Belhaven this would not work tonight. I think we should take a look at it and see what could possibly be done,” Richardson said.
The commissioner said someone would need to go to court before April 1 and obtain an injunction to keep Vidant Health from closing the hospital. Doing so would allow those who want to keep the hospital open some control over efforts to do that.