Pungo Medical seeks meeting with Pantego Creek

Published 6:48 pm Friday, March 25, 2016

BELHAVEN — The Town of Belhaven has released a formal invitation for the managers of Pantego Creek LLC to attend an information session and mediation regarding plans for the hospital property.

Dated March 23, the letter states, “Pungo Medical Center is willing to share information with the Pantego Creek managers about the proposal under a non-disclosure and confidentiality agreement. In addition, Pungo Medical Center is willing to schedule an informational session for the Pantego Creek managers to attend.”

The letter was sent from the law office of Carlos Mahoney, who recently began representing the town and Pungo Medical Center, a nonprofit created to manage the hospital upon reopening. Pantego Creek LLC currently owns the hospital property.

Mahoney also states, “the Town and Pungo Medical Center are interested in holding a mediation with Pantego Creek after the morning informational session. The purpose of the mediation would be to try to find a mutually agreeable solution for the transfer of the former Pungo District Hospital facility in Belhaven.”

He recommended Rene Trehy, a state-certified Superior Court mediator based in Durham, but said he would be open to other suggestions.

Mahoney sent the letter partially in response to a March 11 letter from Pantego Creek lawyer Arey W. Grady III to the members of the LLC, stating the reason for the managers’ decision to not turn over the property.

Grady wrote, “In an effort to understand the latest proposal for a new hospital, the managers have asked for, and been promised, information regarding the newest plan for opening a hospital, but the managers have received no such information to date. … The managers believe they are entitled to a fair review of the details of any proposed transaction prior to discussing the matter publicly.”

He continued, “In closing, rest assured the managers will give good faith consideration to any proposals which are made with customarily provided information, but by the same token the managers refuse to be forced into public sessions which appear to be designed for the sole purpose of intimidation, bullying and political grand-standing.”

To secure funding from the United States Department of Agriculture to help reopen the facility, the town must first obtain the property title. The Town of Belhaven attempted to do so under eminent domain, but has since tried other avenues.

“I hope that the LLC managers agree to meet and try to bring an end to this most difficult time in Belhaven,” Mayor Adam O’Neal said.

Most recently, the Town of Belhaven unveiled a plan to work with Army veteran Mike Hall, of the still-forming Strategic Healthcare LLC, and under parent company People’s Choice Hospital Management Group, to provide veterans care at the hospital. Hall said at a press conference a week and a half ago that he plans to use 30-35 beds specifically for veterans, with the remaining beds for general public use.

Mahoney also stated in his letter that if the information session comes to fruition, five representatives are lined up to attend: Lejon Poole, director of Rural Healthcare Management at Campbell University; David Burns, Frontier Hospitals; Bo Bobbit, Accountable Care Organization national expert; Mike Hall; and Grant White with People’s Choice.

Pantego Creek has yet to respond to the proposal. Grady was also not immediately available for comment.