Town hires new management company to reopen hospital

Published 8:22 pm Thursday, January 29, 2015

BELHAVEN—The Town of Belhaven recently hired a company out of Florida to manage its hospital that closed this past summer.

New Frontier Hospitals, made up of a pair of healthcare and hospital management professionals — James Stanger and David Burns — will assume management of the hospital pending a $6 million USDA loan the town applied for several weeks ago, said Adam O’Neal, mayor of Belhaven. 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 hiring came after a search by the town to secure a management group to reopen the hospital, O’Neal said. On Dec. 17, the town held a public meeting where about 80 members of the community met the Belhaven Town Council and O’Neal to express public interest in reopening the hospital and secure a loan from the USDA. The meeting was well attended and well received, and about a dozen people made positive comments, O’Neal said. The town should know within 45 to 60 days whether the loan application is approved, O’Neal said.

O’Neal said Stanger and Burns have a good record in turning small rural hospitals around, as well as many good business relationships with vendors that could help cut costs for the reopened hospital. Pending the loan, the hospital is set to reopen this summer. A new board, consisting of seven voting members and three nonvoting members, will head the hospital. 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.

Stanger said he and Burns have successfully turned around nine facilities that were facing financial ruin and/or closure. The pair — Stanger, a certified coder and registered nurse, and Burns, a former chief financial officer at a hospital in Miami for 10 years — has many connections in the healthcare industry like pharmacies and supply companies that will alleviate a lot of the expenses that a small rural hospital incurs. The two also plan to get to know the community on a personal level, Stanger said.

“With purchasing and everything, we do hands on,” Stanger said. “We look at cost, we search all over — we treat it as though it is our wallet. With that kind of cost-cutting in mind, we could definitely have the hospital make a profit in the situation. We always entrench ourselves in the community. We want to frequent their businesses, eat at their restaurants and attend their events. We’re not just flying in and trying to swoop money like a lot of companies do. I come from a background of being a nurse and taking care of patients. Patient care is first and foremost. Everything else works out in the end.”

O’Neal said the town is currently in negotiation with Pantego Creek LLC, owner of the hospital, to get the property back in an amiable way. The town hopes to get the building back, acquire the USDA loan and work closely with the new management company to reopen and successfully operate the hospital, O’Neal said.