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Beaufort County To Push For ER In New Health Care Clinic

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The Beaufort County Commissioners say they will push for an emergency room to be included in the new health care clinic when Vidant Pungo in Belhaven closes.

The Beaufort County Commissioners met Monday to discuss how they can assist the town in keeping emergency services, while also adapting to the costs that are expected when the hospital is gone.

The county expects to take a financial hit, including $250,000 for ambulances.

Commissioner Hood Richardson says, "We're gonna be subsidizing it by another $250,000, and I'd say you'll add another $250,000 to that before it's over with. This is a big economic hit to Beaufort County."

And officials say the costs won't just end at the ambulances. They say if patients are transported to any facility that isn't designated as a hospital, the county won't be reimbursed.

The county says they'll request continuing emergency room services in the town of Belhaven, along with a blood supply for patients, in a resolution they say they'll take to Vidant CEO Dr. David Herman during a meeting on Thursday, October 10th.

As far as talk of the county trying to buy the hospital from Vidant, Richardson says, "I don't think anything like that will happen, simply because we just proved to ourselves that we could not run the Beaufort County Hospital. So I don't know why we would go buy one."

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As Vidant Health prepares to shut down Vidant Pungo Hospital in Belhaven and open a 24-hour urgent care, the mayor says it will cost lives, and others say it's going to cost the county a lot of money.

The cost of closing Vidant Pungo Hospital is expected to exceed a $250,000 by some estimates for transport of patients to Washington and Greenville among other costs.

We may get more information at the Beaufort County Board of Commissioners' special meeting Monday to discuss the impact of the hospital shutdown.

The public is welcome at the meeting Monday at 4:00 p.m. at the county administrative office building in Washington, but there will no public comment period.
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People fighting to save Vidant Pungo Hospital in Belhaven finally got what they wanted: a chance to speak to those who plan on closing it down.

It was standing room only at the Wilkinson Center as well over 300 people turned out for the public forum. Some were even outside.

Vidant Health CEO Dr. David Herman told the crowd Pungo is losing $6,500 a day, more than any other Vidant hospital.

Herman says, "We've been spending a lot of money working very, very hard trying to keep the facility safe for the people of this region, and we keep falling behind. So the time has come to get a new facility."

Vidant Pungo is being replaced with a 24-hour urgent care facility. Any emergencies the urgent care can't handle will be sent to Washington or Greenville.

Mike Goodwin works in Belhaven and says, "I guess the question that needs to be asked of Vidant is who's going to accept the blood on their hands, the first person that dies in transit?"

Doctor Herman urged the crowd to understand the circumstances, and not view this as a betrayal.

Herman says, "When we came here to Belhaven we came here for the longterm. What we're doing right now is to make sure that we have a solution to provide the healthcare needs that can be here for the longterm."

But many who showed up aren't ready to accept that alternative and say they want a new hospital.

Doctor Herman says Vidant plans to build a helicopter pad in Belhaven so people can be airlifted to Greenville and other hospitals.

He also says the new facility won't have inpatient beds or an emergency room.

He says 40 employees out of 127 from the hospital have committed to stay on for the urgent care staff and the rest could either be transferred elsewhere, or laid off.

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People concerned about the future of health care in Belhaven will have a chance to learn more during a meeting this evening.

Vidant Health recently decided to close the hospital and open a health clinic.

Vidant Health and Belhaven Mayor Adam O'Neal say the public can learn more at an educational forum on plans related to Vidant Pungo Hospital and the future of health care delivery in the area.

That meeting will take place Tuesday, September 24th from 7:00 until 8:30 p.m. At the Wilkinson Center on West Main Street.

The public will have an opportunity to sign up to provide comments or ask questions, lasting up to three minutes each.

You must sign up before the meeting begins in order to comment.


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