Judge Tells Vidant To Stop Equipment Removal, No Demolition For Now At Belhaven Hospital, Vidant Issues Statement

A judge in Wilson County has ordered Vidant Health to stop removing equipment from the closed Vidant Pungo Hospital in Belhaven.

Superior Judge Milton Fitch issued a "status quo" order this afternoon as the town of Belhaven and the NAACP sought a temporary restraining order against Vidant and Pantego Creek, LLC.

The judge also said that no demolition of the hospital can take place. He said he couldn't rule on the temporary restraining order until all interested parities, including the Pungo District Hospital Corporation, were included in the complaint.

Pungo District was the community group set up to operate the hospital after July 1st.

Vidant argued that it should not be involved in this dispute since it no longer owns the building or property. But Judge Fitch asked if the health system still had security personnel on the property and their lawyer answered yes. The judge said with that answer he questioned Vidant's position.

Vidant told the judge that the property being removed was leased and being taken out by third-party companies. They told the judge a crane brought in earlier in the week was to remove oxygen tanks.

Judge Fitch says the next court date will be August 25th in Plymouth.

Following the hearing, a Vidant spokesperson issued the following statement: "Vidant Health remains committed to the Belhaven community. Vidant Health’s agreement with the town was that they would have assumed operational control of the hospital before now. Unfortunately they did not complete the necessary steps and are still unable to move forward with operating the hospital. Vidant Health met all of our commitments and has put forth the only viable long-term solution for health care in the community to date. Vidant Health denies all of the allegations in the complaint, but we will abide by the judge’s order. In the mean time, Vidant's 24/7 care clinic continues to provide around the clock care for Belhaven and the surrounding communities."

The case was moved to Wilson County after Beaufort County Superior Judge Wayland Sermons said he had a conflict of interest in the case.

The hospital closed July 1st after Vidant said it was losing too much money to stay in operation.

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Necessary paperwork has now been filed in Washington, asking a judge to stop any possible demolition work at the closed Vidant Pungo Hospital.

Belhaven Mayor Adam O'Neal and NAACP lawyers were in a Wilson County courtroom this morning, trying to prevent the former hospital from being bulldozed down.

Superior Court Judge Milton Fitch, Jr. is hearing the request in Wilson after Beaufort County Judge Wayland Sermons said there was a conflict of interest if he heard the case.

They want the judge to grant a temporary restraining order to stop demolition and keep Vidant from moving equipment.

But lawyers for Pantego Creek, LLC, which now owns the building and land, pointed out to the judge that the complaint had not been officially filed in Beaufort County by the town and the NAACP.

Judge Fitch recessed the hearing until 3:30 p.m. to give the Belhaven lawyer time to drive to Washington and back so the paperwork can be submitted.

Lawyers explained they didn't have time to file the case in Washington and make it to the hearing in Wilson at 10:00 a.m.

The request for a temporary restraining order was filed this afternoon, so the hearing before Judge Fitch is expected to resume at 3:30.

The hospital closed July 1st after Vidant said it was losing too much money to stay in operation.