Vidant Health comments on closing of Martin General Hospital's obstetrics unit

The CEO of a local hospital has stepped down just days after a decision to close the obstetrics unit at the facility.

Martin County Commissioners meeting September 11, 2019

Officials with Martin General Hospital tell us that CEO Joanie White-Wagoner stepped down this past Friday from her position.

Chief Financial Officer John Jacobson has taken over as interim CEO, according to Human Resources officials at the hospital.

Martin General Hospital released a statement to WITN about White-Wagoner stepping down:

“Joanie White-Wagoner has stepped down as CEO of Martin General Hospital. We appreciate Joanie’s contributions to the hospital in support of rural health in the region,” said Tommy Roberson, Board Chair of Martin General Hospital.

“John Jacobson, CFO will serve as our temporary interim CEO. As CFO of the hospital, John has been an integral part of our leadership team for more than four years. I have the utmost confidence in John and our dedicated employees and members of the medical staff to continue providing compassionate care.”

The shakeup comes after last Wednesday's unanimous vote by Martin County commissioners to amend the hospital's lease to close the OB unit at the hospital.

That decision was made after the hospital announced intentions to stop providing labor and delivery services in October.

Hospital leaders said obstetrics care is costly and to maintain services Martin General needs 300 baby deliveries a year. Officials say the hospital currently averages 160 deliveries.

WITN reached out to Vidant Health about the situation at Martin General Hospital and the impact it could have on Vidant's services. They provided this statement:

“Vidant Health understands the challenges of delivering health care in rural eastern North Carolina and we also have to continually evaluate the care we provide. The latest developments about Martin General Hospital closing its labor and delivery services are unfortunate, but understandable, as we have seen other rural health systems do the same. Vidant has been contacted by providers with patients impacted by this closing and we are in active conversations. We want those in the community to know that Vidant Beaufort and Vidant Edgecombe are available and ready to provide quality care as needed. We encourage patients to work with their current provider if they have questions.”

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Martin County Commissioners amended the local hospital’s lease during a Wednesday evening meeting and will close the obstetrics (OB) unit on October 21, 2019.

The Wednesday decision came during the county commission meeting to address concerns about closing the OB unit at Martin General Hospital.

Several women left the meeting in tears knowing women in that community will now have to travel more than 30miles to give birth.
Also because of the cuts, labor and delivery nurses may lose their jobs.
Many of the area labor and delivery nurses hugged outside the superior courtroom after learning of what many consider a huge community loss, a unanimous county commission vote to close their unit.

Health Department Supervisor Vickie Manning said, “It's a sad day for Martin County."

Martin County Commissioners voted to amend Martin General Hospital's lease to allow for the closure of the obstetrics unit. County leaders say it was a unanimous, but tough decision for commissioners to make.

"This is a very tough decision for the county, for the community," said Martin County Manager David Bone.

Bone said the decision comes after the hospital announced intentions to stop providing labor and delivery services next month, something nurses say they were only notified of two days ago.

"Refusing to provide care for pregnant women is going to hurt our county," said one local nurse.

Hospital leaders said obstetrics care is costly and to maintain services its CEO said Martin General needs 300 baby deliveries a year. He said the hospital currently averages 160 deliveries.

"Three other providers within 35 miles, there are other providers within close proximity that can provide that same service," said Bone.

Nurses argue many of their patients can't afford to travel 30 miles or more and patients will now have to seek assistance getting the care they need; while nurses will have to search for new jobs.

“Our staff has been so hurt by this shocking decision. Most will have to go to other hospitals for employment,” said one nurse.

The County Manager said the hospital will be working with labor and delivery patients to find them new doctors.

Martin General Hospital in Williamston will end labor and delivery services at 7 a.m. October 21st. The hospital will continue outpatient and inpatient gynecological services.