Hospital trust fund to stay put

Published 7:08 pm Wednesday, August 5, 2015

The dissolution of the hospital authority that has overseen the transition of the county’s hospital to Vidant Health continues to draw fire from some stakeholders.

During the public comments section of the Beaufort County Board of Commissioners meeting Monday, several speakers objected to the commissioners’ recent vote to dissolve the Beaufort Regional Health System Authority, an entity established to handle any debts and liabilities that might have arisen during the transition from county to Vidant.

Beaufort County Commissioner Hood Richardson, chairman of the Beaufort County Hospital Authority Board, questioned County Manager Brian Alligood about several things: the status of the dissolution; once completed, who would be taking over oversight of $6.4 million in the hospital board’s trust fund; and how Vidant would be monitored and supervised as to compliance with the hospital lease.

Alligood answered that he, county attorney David Francisco, county chief finance officer Mark Newsome, commissioners Richardson and Ron Buzzeo met with an attorney July 28 to talk about how to wrap up outstanding liabilities; and that they were in discussion with Vidant about the lease agreement.

Alligood said once the hospital board is disbanded, a group of commissioners will assume oversight of the trust fund, a statement to which Richardson objected.

“The $6.4 million can be used for anything the county wants to spend it on,” Richardson said. Richardson has previously stated that he believes other commissioners will use the money for a new Beaufort County public safety facility, a plan for which was shelved last year.

“You’re just assuming that’s what we’re going to do. And you’re making assumptions,” Board of Commissioners Chairman Gary Brinn said in response.

The six other commissioners have said the money from the trust fund will only be used to improve the health care of Beaufort County residents, primarily in making paramedic-level service and response uniform throughout the county.

Richardson, however, made two motions for resolutions on the issue: that Vidant be replaced with another entity should it not comply with its lease; and that the $6.4 million will remain in a trust fund rather than be absorbed into the county’s general fund. Though Brinn had earlier said the money would stay in a trust, both Richardson’s motions failed for lack of a second.

After, Richardson made a point of extending a public invitation to attend today’s meeting of the Beaufort County Hospital Authority Board and Board of Trustees. The meeting will take place at 9:30 a.m. in the economic development conference room of the Beaufort County Economic Development office, Leggett Road, Washington. Part of this meeting will be in closed session.