Appeal to the Beaufort County commissioners

Published 4:45 pm Saturday, July 25, 2015

To the Editor:

In their July meeting, the Board of Commissioners voted to dissolve the Beaufort Regional Health System Authority. Gary Brinn, in a My Turn column in the WDN, proclaimed the $6.4 million would be secured by the commissioners to supplement funding for enhanced medical service in Beaufort County. He goes on to say the funds should be administered by elected officials whom are held accountable by the voters, rather than be administered by the Hospital Authority Board.

At first glance, these appear to be valid points raised by Mr. Brinn. However, there are also some questions that he failed to answer and which should be disclosed to the public. First, the Authority was established to handle any trailing liabilities after the closing of BC Hospital. The funds in question were allocated to pay those liabilities. How will any potential liabilities be managed? Will they be borne by the taxpayers of Beaufort County?

Second, how do the commissioners plan to pay for the expanded emergency medical service? Knowing the county EMS was moving to full-time paramedic emergency responders, they failed to appropriate sufficient funding for it in the 2015-16 budget. We understand that the board plans to use a $500,000 grant from the Vidant Foundation and the $6.4 million transferred from the Authority to support the countywide medical service improvement. However, the expense of continuing enhanced medical services requires a source of recurring funds. To pay for these recurring costs with a non-recurring source of revenue is poor financial planning. How much of a tax increase must citizens accept when the money is exhausted?

Third, Mr. Brinn is confident that Vidant Beaufort Hospital will remain open indefinitely. How do the commissioners plan to ensure that it does? We are certainly not ready to exclaim that the sky is falling, but we do believe in operating from a position of strength. Dedicating the majority of that $6.4 million to ensure reopening the hospital is the best defense against any plans Vidant may entertain of closing it in the future.

The Beaufort County Citizens for Better Government encourages the commissioners to settle the question of liability insurance and how commissioners will handle any new trailing liabilities that may surface. We also implore them to set aside the $6.4 million in a dedicated account to be used exclusively for improving medical care in Beaufort County, and it should be part of a fiscal plan that ensures that the hospital remains open, regardless of who operates it.

We ask that you refrain from spending any of $6.4 million until the current EMS study is complete. The results of the study should be used to determine the best and most cost-effective method of providing countywide service. Last, explain how non-recurring funds will be allocated to the recurring and expanded EMS expenses. We believe the voters in the EMS districts should determine the level of EM Services and approve any subsequent tax increase required.

We appeal to the Board of Commissioners to be “upfront” and honest with the people of the county regarding your intentions on this issue. How you go about this is just as important, even more so, than the decisions you ultimately make.


Ray Leary


Secretary, Citizens for Better Government