Vidant Pungo agreement to be unveiled: Joint press conference set for 6 p.m. at hospital

Published 9:43 pm Wednesday, April 2, 2014

BELHAVEN — Town officials, NAACP representatives and executives from Vidant Health will officially unveil the mediation agreement that will keep Vidant Pungo Hospital’s doors open for another three months.

The public is invited to attend the gathering in front of the hospital at 6 p.m. today. Vidant Health had scheduled the hospital closing for April 1, but the combination of public objection, a civil rights complaint filed with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services by the NAACP and mediation by U.S. Department of Justice representatives has landed a deal to give the community time to come up with options to keep the hospital operating after July 1.

“We’ve got three extra months to put a deal together and that’s what we’re working on,” said Belhaven Mayor Adam O’Neal.

Vidant announced it would close the hospital in September 2013 and replace its services with a 24-hour/seven days a week multi-specialty clinic. Its stated reasoning was that the hospital was losing $2.5 million a year.

Over the past six months, rallies, forums and prayer vigils have been held and resolutions signed in support of keeping the hospital open and keeping the 130 jobs associated with the Vidant Pungo Hospital in Belhaven. March 14, the Beaufort County Board of Commissioners voted 4-3 to lend $2 million to the effort to save the hospital; two weeks later, mediation provided a stay of execution for the hospital’s closure.

According to Belhaven Mayor Adam O’Neal, a community-based organization is currently being assembled to tackle the hospital’s takeover and transition from Vidant Health to other ownership.

Tonight’s joint press conference promises to be a big event and cause for celebration, O’Neal said.