MAYOR: Vidant Leadership Is Immoral; Health System Responds To Critics

In front of the U.S. Capitol, Belhaven's mayor charged that the leadership of Vidant Health is "immoral".

Adam O'Neal on Monday wrapped up a two-week long walk from Belhaven to the nation's capital, raising awareness of the impact to Vidant Pungo Hospital's closing.

The facility shut down on July 1. A clinic in town is handling 24 hour health care needs.

Speaking during a Capitol Hill news conference, O'Neal said Vidant CEO David Herman makes over twice what their hospital lost. Vidant says Herman makes $694,352 a year.

The mayor said in 2012, the non-profit health system made $127 million, while in 2013 it brought in $109 million.

"He took emergency services away from 20,000 people in a year that they made $100 million. That's wrong," said O'Neal. "That's why you have laws for immoral people. He's immoral. Vidant's leadership is immoral. You don't make $100 million and close a critical access hospital."

O'Neal charged that Vidant has $550 million in reserves. "They looked me straight in the eye and said we're going to close your critical access hospital," said O'Neal. "They closed a critical access hospital with a half billion dollars in the bank, making over $100 million a year and let people die."

While O'Neal was in his final strides, VIdant Health spoke out about the hospital closing.

The president of Community Health Hospitals, Roger Robertson, says there was just not enough patients to maintain the hospital. They say they've had just four people per day come to the Belhaven hospital in 2013 needing critical acute care. It fell to two per day in 2014.

Robertson said since 2011, Vidant Health Incurred $5.7 million dollars in debt. As a not-for-profit hospital, Vidant says it has to put monies back into all their hospitals.

Dr. Gregory Jones says he has worked in Belhaven for 25 years and says the needs of patients in that area don't sustain the type of hospital needed in that community. He says Vidant Health System now has a 24-7 clinic available and construction of a $4.2 million, 12,000 square foot facility is planned and could be built in 12-18 months.

Previous Story

Since July 14, one Eastern Carolina mayor has been making his way from Belhaven to Washington D.C. in an effort to bring attention to healthcare access in his rural town.

Belhaven Mayor Adam O'Neal reached Alexandria, Virginia on Sunday. He met with the city's mayor, William Euille.

O'Neal said, "We're trying to get as many people as possible to look at what Vidant did to Belhaven." The Belhaven mayor is referring to a failed transfer of ownership of the town's hospital from Vidant Health to the Town of Belhaven, which resulted in Vidant closing the critical access hospital on July 1.

O'Neal said he will also be participating in the Moral Monday protests on July 28th at 11:30 a.m. He told us he agrees with the movement on the issues of Medicaid expansion and "the injustices that Vidant Health have put on the people of Belhaven."

As the mayor gets closer to the nation's capital, he is still hoping to meet with Attorney General Eric Holder, among others. O'Neal said he would like a bill to be introduced that could prevent what happened to his town's hospital from happening across the country.

Previous Story

An Eastern Carolina mayor is making progress on his walk to help reopen his town's closed hospital.

Belhaven Mayor Adam O'Neal set off on Monday morning to the nation's capitol.

Friday morning, O'Neal said he has walked around 80 miles so far, which is on target for his goal of 20 miles a day.

By Friday afternoon, the mayor crossed into Virginia. O'Neal said he will meet with Virginia's governor at a rally in four days.

The mayor is walking to Washington, D.C. hoping to meet with Attorney General Eric Holder and bring attention to Vidant Pungo Hospital's closing two weeks ago.

O'Neal says, personally, he is doing great, and has been taking advice from friends who hike on how to avoid getting blisters.

Also, he has the company of a 75-year-old civil rights advocate named Bob Zellner.

Previous Story

An Eastern North Carolina mayor hit the pavement Monday morning to spread awareness about the closing of a hospital in his town.

Belhaven Mayor Adam O'Neal is walking from Belhaven to Washington, D.C. to make the government aware of the closing of Vidant Pungo Hospital.

The hospital closed July 1st when negotiations to transfer ownership of the hospital over to the town of Belhaven from Vidant Health fell through.

O'Neal plans to walk for 14 days, doing 20 miles a day all with the hope of scheduling a meeting with Attorney General Eric Holder, Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Matthews Burwell, and some North Carolina lawmakers.

The walk began at 9 a.m. Monday morning at the closed hospital.

The North Carolina NAACP as well as the Beaufort County chapter will walk alongside Mayor O'Neal for the first leg of the more than 200-mile trek. NAACP President Dr. William Barber joined the mayor at the start of the march.

The closing of the community hospital is receiving widespread attention. Al Jazeera America, a New York-based national cable network, sent a crew to cover the start of the walk.