Hospital demo continues, mayor cites failed justice system

Published 6:16 pm Wednesday, December 28, 2016

BELHAVEN — The old hospital building in Belhaven will soon be gone.

Demolition crews began knocking down the building Wednesday night after Superior Court Judge Gregory P. McGuire handed down a ruling that afternoon discontinuing the restraining order and denying a preliminary injunction on demolition proceedings.

The demolition of the decades-old hospital building signals the end of a two-and-a-half-year fight to reopen the facility after Vidant Health closed it in July 2014. The Town of Belhaven failed to obtain the property via eminent domain, and Pungo Medical Center’s offers to buy the property were rejected. Pungo Medical is the nonprofit formed to oversee the reopening.

Belhaven Mayor Adam O’Neal said he thinks the justice system failed the people of Belhaven.

“What happened in Belhaven is an example of the condition of our country. We worked to get as many people knowledgeable about the hospital as possible, believing that it would lead to justice,” O’Neal said. “The billion-dollar corporations are running our country now, and there’s no place for the common man in our justice system.”


Eight members of Pantego Creek LLC, which owns the property, spurred the preliminary injunction request to prevent demolition after filing complaints against the LLC’s four managers. The complaints alleged LLC members were given misleading information in an effort to sway them to vote in favor of demolishing the old building. Pantego Creek’s membership voted for the demolition in mid-November.

Superior Court Judge Cy Grant issued a temporary restraining order on Nov. 28 until the complaints were heard in court. McGuire heard arguments Dec. 21 at Wake County Courthouse, but continued the case until after the Christmas holiday. McGuire ultimately ruled in favor of the Pantego Creek managers.

The decision reads: “The evidence before the Court at this stage of the proceedings shows that Defendants acted carefully and conscientiously in discharge of their duties as the managers of Pantego Creek at all times following Vidant’s announcement that it was closing the Hospital. At every turn, Defendants considered the relevant facts and circumstances surrounding the economic viability of the Hospital and the options available to Pantego Creek.”

It continues: “Not only have the majority of Pantego Creek’s members stated that they believe Defendants ‘fully and honestly informed’ them regarding the transaction, they have clearly stated that they do not consider the alleged misrepresentation ‘material’ to their decisions to vote against acquiring and operating the Hospital, and it would not have changed their votes.”

Pantego Creek lawyer Arey Grady III declined to comment on the demolition, stating the LLC is “letting the court’s opinion speak for itself.”


O’Neal said he still believes Vidant had a hand in curbing plans to reopen the hospital facility, and he doesn’t think McGuire handed down a fair ruling Wednesday.

“The four managers and Vidant are celebrating tearing down the hospital, which provided hope for thousands of people,” O’Neal said. “We did the very best we could. We have nothing to be ashamed of.”

Since the hospital closed, Vidant opened a 24-hour multispecialty clinic on West Old County Road in Belhaven, a project that cost $6 million.

“For Vidant, continuing to operate an out-of-date facility that was in need of major repairs, under a traditional inpatient model of care, did not provide a sustainable solution for health care for Belhaven or for the broader community,” said Christine Mackey, Vidant communications manager. “In June, we opened a new, 24/7, state-of-the-art, health care facility that includes a helicopter landing pad in Belhaven. Since its opening, Vidant’s doctors, nurses and other health care providers have had more than 14,000 patient visits, evidence that the Belhaven’s new multispecialty clinic is the right approach for health care in this community.”

O’Neal said the hospital supporters are looking at other potential options, but declined to give details.

The videos below were contributed by a witness to the demolition.