Even With Pungo Hospital Closed, Town Looks At Options

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Now that Vidant Pungo Hospital is officially closed, a lot of questions remain for the residents of Belhaven.

At a meeting Tuesday night, town officials came together to explain what comes next.

Even though the doors of Vidant Pungo Hospital are now locked, town officials say that doesn't mean they will just accept what's happened.

It was standing room only at the Belhaven Civic Center for the meeting as residents came out to hear Mayor Adam O'Neal and consultants lay out what they say is a sustainable plan for a small town hospital.

The town of Belhaven had until July first to take ownership of the hospital but that did not happen.

According to Poole & Associates - the consultants who the town says are the third to assess the situation - say the town will lose 17.5 million a year without the hospital.

However, they say that by using subsidies under the Affordable Care Act, downsizing to 10 beds instead of 50, and bringing in inexpensive management, the hospital would be able to turn a profit as early as next year.

The town is also working with an attorney on developing an accountable care organization - a network of doctors and hospitals that coordinate care for patients in an effort to lessen costs.

Town officials are also hoping the Department of Justice will investigate, but say they need tow residents to speak out.

Mayor Adam O'Neal also says there's some promise in setting up meetings with managers of Pantego Creek LLC, but nothing is set in stone yet.

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Vidant Health has opened a 24-hour clinic and closed its hospital in Belhaven.

On Friday, Belhaven Mayor Adam O'Neal charged that Vidant undermined the hospital transfer, claiming the health system wanted the Belhaven hospital to close, sending patients to Vidant Beaufort Hospital in Washington instead.

In a statement released just before noon Monday, Vidant says the allegations by the town "only serve to disguise the fact that it has failed to fulfill its obligations as outlined by the mediation agreement."

Roger Robertson, president of Vidant Community Hospitals says they tried multiple times to contact the town to help coordinate plans for the transfer, but "the lack of response made it apparent that the Town knew that it did not have a plan to take over hospital operations," according to Robertson.

He said according to the mediation agreement, Belhaven agreed to close the hospital if it was not ready to take over operations on July 1st.

Vidant says Monday morning it opened a 24/7 clinic at Vidant Family Medicine on Haslin Street, and says it is moving forward with plans to build a new 12,000 square foot multispeciality clinic in Belhaven.

Meanwhile, the town will hold a meeting on the closing Tuesday night at 7:00 p.m. at the civic center. Mayor Adam O'Neal is expected to update residents on what the town can do to maintain health care.


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Belhaven Mayor Adam O'Neal says Vidant Health is trying to undermine the transfer of Vidant Pungo Hospital and the town's efforts to keep it open.

The town and the NAACP face a Tuesday deadline to keep the hospital open. Last week, Pantego Creek, LLC announced it was against giving the town another six months to finalize the transfer.

At a morning news conference, O'Neal, the NAACP and other community leaders blamed Vidant for delays in obtaining the transfer.

"I am going to submit to you today that Vidant worked in bad faith during the entire time during mediation, that they have done things, they have caused us problems, like telling employees that they're going to close on the first, a month ago to scare them to make everything unstable," said O'Neal.

The group wants the FBI to investigate the relationship between Vidant Health and Pantego Creek. Pantego was made up of previous investors of Pungo District Hospital, and was set up to facilitate the 2011 transfer to Vidant.

"Vidant doesn't want us to take the hospital back," said O'Neal. "They want to accomplish their goal of putting us out of business to force people to Washington. That's what they're doing. Everybody needs to understand, in that Vidant is not concerned about people dying. This is a fact, this is not an opinion. If they cared, they would have helped. Vidant have $550 million in the bank and they're not willing to give us another six to eight weeks to take our hospital back."

O'Neal said the group was 90% ready to take control of the hospital.

Asked to respond to the mayor's allegations, Vidant issued a short statement Friday afternoon. "We are surprised by the Mayor's inaccurate comments and allegations from the NC NAACP and are choosing not to respond at this time," said Roger Robertson, president of Vidant Community Hospitals.

Thursday evening the North Carolina NAACP filed a Supplemental Title VI Complaint with the U.S. Departments of Justice and Health and Human Services, in an attempt to keep the hospital open.

The complaint, filed June 24, asked the U.S. Department of Justice to seek injunctive relief immediately to preserve the status quo of the hospital.

In the letter to Attorney General Eric Holder, the NAACP says if the hospital closes "people will die".


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The North Carolina NAACP and the town of Belhaven have filed a Supplemental Title VI Complaint with the U.S. Departments of Justice and Health and Human Services, in an attempt to keep Vidant Pungo Hopsital open.

A news conference is planned for Friday morning to talk about the efforts to keep the hospital doors open past July 1, when they are scheduled to close.

NAACP representatives describe the problem as "A last minute glitch in the hospital transfer - apparently created by Pantego Creek, LLC, a small group from a 103-person board that Vidant helped revitalize a couple of years ago."

Work has been underway since April to have the town take over the hospital.

The NC NAACP's supplemental complaint, filed June 24, asked the U.S. Department of Justice to seek injunctive relief immediately to preserve the status quo of the Hospital.

WITN will update the story as we get new information Friday.



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Vidant Health says it will close the troubled hospital in Belhaven at 12:01 a.m. Tuesday.

In a letter to Beaufort County Emergency Management Director John Pack, the president of Vidant Pungo says they will "cease providing emergency and other hospital services" at that time.

Pack requested at least five days notice so that he can adjust emergency services in the county.

Residents of eastern Beaufort County and Hyde County will now have to travel to either Washington or Plymouth for hospital care.

With the help of mediators, the town of Belhaven negotiated to buy back the hospital from Vidant Health, so the doors would not close on July 1st.

Just last week, Pantego Creek, LLC., which is made up of investors from the old Pungo District Hospital, announced it would not agree to a six month extension to the deal.

Vidant bought the hospital in 2011, but announced last year that it would close the facility in favor of a 24-hour clinic.



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The clock is ticking on a deal to transfer a hospital serving thousands of people from Vidant Health to the community it serves.

The date to close the Vidant Pungo Hospital deal is one week from Tuesday.

With the help of mediators, the town of Belhaven negotiated to buy back the hospital from Vidant Health, so the doors would not close.

Just last week, Pantego Creek, LLC., which is made up of investors from the old Pungo District Hospital, announced it would not agree to a six month extension to the deal.

After that announcement was made, the President of Vidant Community Hospitals, issued a statement saying, "Pantego Creek's decision in this regard is unexpected, and places Vidant Health in a difficult position in its ability to continue to assist the Town of Belhaven in its efforts to assume control of the hospital."

Belhaven Mayor Adam O'Neal said last week he would not be commenting on what will happen next, but WITN will keep asking for updates.

If the hospital were to close its doors, people all over the eastern part of Beaufort and Hyde counties would have to get to Washington or Plymouth for emergency care.



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The clock is ticking for the town of Belhaven to take over Vidant Pungo Hospital.

The town has two weeks to finalize a transfer of the hospital from Vidant Health, which had decided to close the hospital last year.

Monday, Pantego Creek LLC, which is made up of investors from the old Pungo District Hospital, announced it would not agree to a six month extension to the deal.

Under the original agreement when Vidant purchased the hospital in 2011, Pantego Creek retained certain rights over the real estate.

While Mayor Adam O'Neal won't comment, one member of Belhaven town council doesn't feel Pantego's move will keep them from reaching their ultimate goal of keeping the hospital open.

"We're not giving up, there's still a lot of things that need to be done," said council member Greg Satterthwaite. "I just see this as a stumbling point and we'll get over it."

Roger Robertson, President of Vidant Community Hospitals, issued a statement last night. "Pantego Creek's decision in this regard is unexpected, and places Vidant Health in a difficult position in its ability to continue to assist the Town of Belhaven in its efforts to assume control of the hospital," said Robertson.

If the hospital closes, residents of eastern Beaufort County and Hyde County would have to travel to Washington or Plymouth for emergency care.



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There could be a roadblock with keeping Vidant Pungo Hospital open after the first of the month.

Pantego Creek, LLC, which oversaw Vidant's assumption of control of the Belhaven hospital back in 2011, says it will not agree to the town and Vidant extending their agreement for another six months.

Belhaven was to take control of the hospital on July 1st from Vidant Health.

Pantego Creek says it continues to have doubts about the hospital's long-term viability when it is reorganized to deliver healthcare services to the community.

Belhaven Mayor Adam O'Neal said he can't comment on Pantego's announcement, but said within the next week the town would update its position on the matter.

Roger Robertson, President of Vidant Community Hospitals, released a statement regarding the decision.

"Vidant Health has learned that Pantego Creek, LLC is unwilling to agree to a transfer of ownership of Vidant Pungo Hospital to the Town of Belhaven," Robertson said Monday. "Pantego Creek's decision in this regard is unexpected, and places Vidant Health in a difficult position in its ability to continue to assist the Town of Belhaven in its efforts to assume control of the hospital."


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