Momentum builds for Vidant Pungo

Published 8:46 pm Wednesday, April 16, 2014

BELHAVEN — At the Belhaven town council meeting on Monday, Mayor Adam O’Neal and the town council made one thing clear: momentum is building to save Vidant Pungo Hospital.

According to O’Neal, the Town of Belhaven has secured an attorney as well as a management consultant to aid in taking back the hospital and launch its normal operation.

“We are setting out to create a model for rural health care that can be used around the country,” O’Neal said. “The consultant we are going to work with is a nationally known expert on ‘Affordable Care’ organizations.”

O’Neal said that the town is putting together a team that will not only be capable of securing the hospital and making sure it is sustainable, but also helping to develop a model that can be used to save other rural healthcare facilities. Amongst this team, the Hyde County Commissioners have passed a resolution supporting the cause of keeping the hospital open and operating.

“They are also willing to examine and evaluate any plan that we may develop and be partners,” O’Neal said.

In the next three to four weeks, the town will be forming a committee comprised of Beaufort and Hyde counties’ residents, who will be the future board of directors for the hospital, according to O’Neal. This committee’s members will be nominated and selected by the Beaufort County Commissioners, the Belhaven Town Council and the Hyde County Commissioners.

“I think it is very important to have elected officials responsible in some way for the hospital’s success,” O’Neal said. “This is a public entity that needs to be held publicly accountable.”

According to O’Neal, the NAACP continues to play a role in the survival of the hospital. The organization is involved in the concept of creating a rural healthcare model that can be transferrable to other areas.

“They are also helping us secure support from outside entities that will be willing to help donate money to form this model and make our hospital successful,” O’Neal said.

O’Neal said that the battle is far from over, however.

“It’s going to take a little while,” O’Neal said. “There is a lot of stuff being done here and put together. It’s kind of like you have to get the ball team assembled before we can move to the next step. We have got the major components coming in place, but we are just going to keep moving forward. We are still looking to raise as much capital as possible to ensure the hospital’s success, but we are being encouraged by healthcare-business experts that say we can and will be successful if we do things the right way, which we are going to. We still need the prayers that people have been giving for our hospital to be continued because there are many hurdles to jump before this transfer takes place. There are going to be some difficult negotiations and obstacles to overcome still.”