Pantego Creek denies plans to demolish hospital

Published 6:07 pm Tuesday, April 12, 2016

BELHAVEN — The battle over the hospital property in Belhaven continues to rage as rumors swirl about the potential demolition of the building.

On Monday, Mayor Adam O’Neal sent out a release stating he had been informed that Pantego Creek LLC, which owns the property, had plans to demolish the building.

“A source has notified the Town of Belhaven that the Pantego Creek LLC managers have contacted contractors to tear down the Belhaven Hospital. The contractors are to let their interest be known by this Wednesday,” the release stated. “This action is taking place despite the town’s effort to move the issue to mediation.”

But Pantego Creek’s lawyer Arey Grady III said in a response that the LLC’s four managers had made no such plans, and would not take any action without a vote from the rest of the membership.

“The managers do not know who originated these rumors, and the managers will again assure the LLC’s membership that the members have the final authority on matters of this nature,” Grady said.

Since Vidant Health closed Vidant Pungo Hospital in 2014, town officials have fought to reopen the facility, creating the nonprofit Pungo Medical Center to manage it. The town has also requested funding in the form of a $6 million USDA loan, although it must first obtain the property to proceed.

The town also debuted a new plan to offer veterans care at the new hospital by contracting with People’s Choice Hospital Management Group, with Army veteran Mike Hall managing the project in Belhaven.

Grady said the LLC managers are also awaiting responses from the town on many questions sent more than a week ago, including:

  • Has the town taken steps to preserve all previously issued certificates of need (allowing them to run a hospital), or determined if a new one is needed for the new veterans plan?
  • Have licenses, leases and billing for lessee’s services been settled or obtained? Has a management agreement been signed?
  • Will the new loan require LCG approval?
  • If the USDA loan is not repaid or if the new operations are not successful, what happens to the hospital property?
  • Has the town obtained Medicare/Medicaid designation and certification?
  • What will happen to the lawsuit brought by Belhaven if the hospital reopens?

“The lack of any consideration of these very important issues raises serious concerns regarding the Town’s ability to open a new healthcare facility. Rather than scheduling more protests and demonstrations, the Town of Belhaven should provide its citizens and taxpayers the information, which would underlie answers to the…questions,” Grady continued.

O’Neal said in previous interviews that the town has given the requested information to the Pantego Creek managers, and has made several attempts to meet with them, most recently via a suggested mediation.

In a March 29 email, Grady said that the LLC had received information from the town and was weighing its options regarding mediation at the time.

“As of yet, we have not agreed to any particular offer or proposal,” he said.