Belhaven residents keep watch over hospital property
Published 2:15 pm Saturday, April 16, 2016
BELHAVEN — Belhaven residents erected a tent in front of the hospital property on Saturday to ensure nothing happens to the building.
They plan to keep it occupied every night until the Town of Belhaven has secured a deal to reopen the hospital.
Their actions stem from an April 11 release sent out by Mayor Adam O’Neal, stating that a source informed him of Pantego Creek LLC’s intention to demolish the building. Pantego Creek LLC owns the hospital property.
Despite his insistence on the matter, O’Neal declined to give any further details about the source at a weekend press conference.
Residents gathered around the tent Saturday to show their support of the cause.
“We have the chance to have a viable, cost-effective hospital with an up-to-date emergency room, fully equipped to save people’s lives, and there are four people in the way,” said resident Dave Rieves.
Barbara Pugh, a Main Street resident, said she lived in Australia for 26 years, where they have a national healthcare system, and she is disappointed to see what is happening in Belhaven.
Pugh said it shouldn’t be a “dollar and cents” issue, but rather one about caring for the residents no matter what.
“With medical stuff, you have to think long term,” she said. “(The managers) really need to search their consciences. … I just don’t understand why anyone could stand against 16,000 people.”
Since the closing of Vidant Pungo Hospital in 2014, town officials have fought to reopen it, 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 recently debuted a new plan to incorporate veterans’ care at the new hospital, contracting with People’s Choice Hospital Management Group via Army veteran and project manager Mike Hall.
Despite the rumors, Pantego Creek’s lawyer Arey Grady III released a response last week denying any plans to demolish the building.
“The Pantego Creek, LLC managers have stated publicly many times that any final disposition of the former PDH (Pungo District Hospital) hospital campus will be made only after a vote of the LLC’s membership. The managers have made no proposals to the membership for the demolition of the buildings, and no vote of the membership for the demolition of these buildings [or for any other disposition of the real estate] has been scheduled,” Grady wrote.
He continued, “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.”
O’Neal said there are plans to picket in front of the managers’ homes in the coming weeks.