Belhaven hospital on path to reopening

Published 7:56 pm Tuesday, December 23, 2014

BELHAVEN — Belhaven’s hospital is on track to be reopened this summer through a United States Department of Agriculture loan.

The Town held a public meeting on Dec. 17 at the Belhaven Civic Center where about 80 members of the community joined Mayor Adam O’Neal and the town council to express public interest in reopening the hospital and secure a loan from the USDA, said Eunice Williams, a Hyde County resident and Belhaven business owner.

Williams said the meeting was well attended and well received. About a dozen people made public comments, which were all positive.

“Most were very grateful to the board for its work in trying to reopen the hospital,” Williams said. “Everyone expressed the need for the hospital. The mayor also spoke, at length, about our efforts and the progress we’re making, and the management group we’re working with, and the experience they have in turning hospitals around.”

Since the hospital’s closure on July 1, the Town has worked closely with its team of consultants, including Poole and Associates, a group of healthcare experts, to examine viability and planning for reopening the hospital. The town originally applied for a $3 million loan through the USDA, but that figure has risen to $6 mil. The money secured through the loan will go toward the equipment needed to operate the hospital, as well as working capital to reopen it. The Town expects to hear back from the USDA in January and by February, the funds should be available, Williams said.

“We’re hoping to have it reopened by May or June,” Williams said. “It’s scary having the hospital closed this long, but there are a numerous amount of volunteers who are interested in helping with the cleanup. It (the hospital) is in good shape, but it needs some cleaning.”

Williams said the hospital will be headed by a new board, consisting of seven voting members and three nonvoting members. Among the seven voting members are: O’Neal, who will serve as chairman; Hood Richardson, who will serve as vice-chairman; Williams, who will serve as secretary; Scott Ellis, a pharmacist in Belhaven; Jim Madson, Beaufort County Health Department Health Director; Archie Green, a retired educator from Hyde County; and Dick Ray, a retired banker with Southern Bank.

The Town is hopeful that the hospital, which will be called Pungo Medical Center, will be reopened and successfully operated, Williams said.

“We’re very hopeful,” Williams said. “There’s been a lot of work and prayer put into this, and that’s what we’re banking on. We’re committed to it. The prayer, faith community is very dedicated to this hospital and that’s where our success will be.”