Vidant Health says it is appealing the revocation of building permits by Belhaven town officials for a new clinic.
The health system and the Beaufort County town are locked in a dispute over the closing of Vidant Pungo Hospital on July 1st.
The town had initially given Vidant approval to build the 24/7 clinic between the post office and the Food Lion shopping center. But the town denied proposed building plans, and revoked the building permit.
Mayor Adam O'Neal says the land just isn't fit for a new clinic. He said it's too close to a residential area and the area isn't even zoned for a medical facility.
Vidant says it will file the appeal in the next few days with the Belhaven Board of Adjustment.
A group that owns the closed Vidant Pungo Hospital says it has offered to hand over the facility to the town.
Pantego Creek, LLC gained control of the Belhaven hospital property when Vidant Health closed it July 1st.
In a letter it sent to members on Tuesday, Pantego Creek says it made the offer more than a week ago, but hasn't heard back from the town.
Pantego Creek released the four-page letter to the media today.
In the letter, Pantego Creek says it will deed the hospital to Belhaven if it and the NAACP sign releases and agree to drop their lawsuit. It also says Vidant would pay the town for replacement of equipment, as well as costs to the LLC to dissolve itself.
The proposal came after Vidant encouraged the LLC to hand over the title of the property.
But, Pantego Creek says so far their proposal has gone unanswered by the town. The LLC says it wants to do their part in "keeping viable healthcare in the Belhaven community."
Vidant Pungo closed after a deal to transfer the hospital to the town fell through. The town sought an extension of the July 1st deadline, but Pantego Creek didn't agree.
In the letter to members, Pantego Creek says it was concerned that a delay could jeopardize the future of healthcare in Belhaven. It says the town wanted the LLC to waive an agreement where Vidant would construct a new 24-hour clinic in Belhaven, and consent to closing the hospital down for a period of time so that Belhaven could continue to work on its plans for the hospital.
This summer, Belhaven and the NAACP sued Vidant and Pantego Creek, obtaining a temporary restraining order that stopped the removal of equipment and prohibited any demolition. That case is now tied up in a request from Vidant to get it moved into federal court.
Mayor Adam O'Neal says he believes the town has suffered irreparable damage, so they are not immediately accepting the offer.
O'Neal says they want a judge to decide what Vidant really owes them. "They have destroyed the hospital's reputation, they have told everybody that it can't work," said O'Neal. "They have done so much damage that it's unbelievable. They also came to town and told people that they were going to maintain the strength of the hospital, and then had the idea of closing it all along. These things are things they are going to have to make retribution for."
Thursday afternoon, Dr. Charles Boyette, who is a member of Pantego Creek, took WITN inside the hospital for a tour. It was the first time the media has been in the hospital since Vidant announced that they were going to close it.
Boyette says he estimates Vidant has removed about 90% of the equipment from the facility.
Late Thursday, Vidant released a statement saying it has received no response from the mayor or the town on how they want to move forward, "except for the revocation of the building permit" for their new 24/7 clinic.
Vidant says it has made multiple attempts to communicate and work with the town for the best solution.
Vidant Health statement
Vidant Health has worked from the beginning to develop a long-term, sustainable health care solution for Belhaven and the surrounding communities. We have made multiple attempts to communicate and work with the Town for the best solution. These attempts ranged from efforts to find a way for Belhaven to take over the hospital and Vidant encouraging Pantego Creek, LLC, to donate the property to Belhaven.
We were ready to hand the entire hospital with all of the equipment over to the Town on July 1. When they did not take control, Vidant Health did exactly what was outlined in the mediation agreement and in our agreement with Pantego Creek.
To date, we have received no response from the Mayor or the Town on how they want to move forward, except for the revocation of the building permit for the new 24/7 multispecialty facility.
Our commitment to the community remains the same, and we are moving forward with plans to build the new, $4.2M, 24/7 facility in Belhaven.
Belhaven Mayor Adam O'Neal says the Department of Health and Human Services will begin investigating whether Vidant Health and Pantego Creek LLC's actions regarding the closing Vidant Pungo Hospital have a negative effect on minorities and the poor.
Vidant Health says, "Since the filing of the original complaint, Vidant Health has responded to questions and provided information to the Office of Civil Rights. They have recently asked for additional information which Vidant is readily providing."
The announcement comes on the heels of news that the town revoked Vidant's permit for the new 24 hour clinic - leaving residents questioning the future of healthcare in their community
Mayor O'Neal says the land just isn't fit for a new clinic. He says it's too close to a residential area and the area isn't even zoned for a medical facility.
O'Neal says, "the building inspector issued the permit thinking everything would be okay and not understanding the zoning of that property so then when the planning board came back and reviewed it and said, we're not for this, and we're never going to be for it."
Vidant also says, "Vidant Health considered several properties available within the town limits of Belhaven, but purchased 19.4 acres between the Post Office and the Food Lion shopping center, south of Highway 264. The property at 601 Old County Road is within walking distance to Belhaven residents, and serviceable by local utility operators. The town of Belhaven never made an official offer to Vidant Health regarding property to build the clinic. After reviewing a piece of property suggested by the Mayor for donation, Vidant discovered it has several environmental issues including old, underground storage tanks from a previous gas station and school, and the property is not large enough for a helipad."
Vidant also says they sent a letter to Pantego Creek LLC, who owns the Vidant Pungo property, strongly encouraging them to hand over the title to the town saying, "Pantego Creek LLC has the opportunity to assist the town's efforts to operate a hospital".
Meantime, O'Neal also said they are still waiting to hear whether a federal judge will hear their lawsuit against Vidant Health and Pantego Creek LLC.
Belhaven Mayor Adam O'Neal says he will address the media about the town's ongoing conflict with Vidant Health Thursday afternoon.
A news release from Vidant Health was sent out Wednesday, disclosing that the healthcare system received a notification that the town had revoked the permit to build and also denied the building plans for that new facility.
"We are disappointed that the town of Belhaven would revoke a permit that they had already granted," said Dr. David Herman, CEO of Vidant Health. "Belhaven and the region would benefit from this new facility. We remain committed to pursuing health care solutions that will serve this region."
Wednesday night, Belhaven Mayor Adam O'Neal sent a tweet about his plans for today:
"Very strong press conference tomorrow in front of Vidant at 1:30pm. The truth will continue to bring justice."
We are awaiting further details from the mayor about that press conference.
The battle continues over the now closed Vidant Pungo Hospital as the town of Belhaven is working to keep the facility from being torn down.
We will let you know what happens at the Thursday afternoon press conference.
The town of Belhaven has denied Vidant Health’s building plans and revoked a previously-issued building permit for a new 24-hour health care facility and helipad for a multi-specialty medical care and emergency medical transport in the Belhaven area.
The town granted the building permit on August 1, 2014.
On August 28, Vidant Health received notification that the town had revoked the permit.
“We are disappointed that the town of Belhaven would revoke a permit that they had already granted,” said Dr. David Herman, CEO of Vidant Health. “Belhaven and the region would benefit from this new facility. We remain committed to pursuing health care solutions that will serve this region.”
In December, 2013, Vidant Health purchased 19.4 acres between the Post Office and the Food Lion shopping center, south of Highway 264.
Vidant says the property at 601 Old County Road is within walking distance for Belhaven residents, and serviceable by local utility operators.
The new facility will include all Vidant Medical Group physicians, staff and services under one roof, and have space available for specialists who see patients in this community. The site plan also includes a new helipad in Belhaven for emergency transports to a higher level of care for patients when needed.
Currently, Vidant Health is providing care at the 24/7 care clinic and at the three physician practices in Belhaven.
This all comes as the town of Belhaven is fighting to keep the former Vidant Pungo hospital from being torn down as it tries to re-open the hospital.