BELHAVEN: NAACP hopes to save rural NC hospital - WNCN: News, Weather

NAACP to file restraining order to save rural NC hospital

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Mayor Adam O'Neal (left) walked from Belhaven to Washington, D.C., to raise awareness of how the desire for profit is costing rural healthcare centers and the services they provide. Mayor Adam O'Neal (left) walked from Belhaven to Washington, D.C., to raise awareness of how the desire for profit is costing rural healthcare centers and the services they provide.
BELHAVEN, N.C. -

The North Carolina NAACP and the town of Belhaven plan to deliver a motion for a temporary restraining order against Vidant Health, the NAACP announced Thursday morning.

Vidant Pungo Hospital in Belhaven closed on July 1 after Greenville-based Vidant said the town had not provided the funding necessary to take over operations the hospital. The town's mayor, however, argues that hospital officials are putting profits over people's health.

"We're going to continue to push this issue until justice is done," Belhaven mayor Adam O'Neal said Thursday. "Whatever the outcome is today, we'll keep right on working because the injustice that has been done for the people of our area is so great, that we will take every effort possible to keep right on pushing."

The restraining order is being requested in response to what the NAACP calls "continued neglect of the Pungo District Hospital facility."

"Since breaking its mediated agreement with the N.C. NAACP and the town of Belhaven and closing the town hospital on July 1, Vidant Health has done what it can to hasten the building's state of disrepair and has even threatened to bulldoze the property in the coming weeks," the NAACP said.

Vidant Health officials said last year that they would close the hospital, in part because North Carolina lawmakers refused federal funding to expand Medicaid that would pay bills of poor patients. Vidant CEO Dr. David Herman said the hospital had provided more than $2 million in unpaid health care since 2011, when Vidant took it over.

But in April, Vidant agreed to operate the hospital until July and provide $1 million if local officials would provide an additional $2 million. A Vidant executive said the town wasn't ready as of June to take over the hospital.

The NAACP said it is determined, along with the town of Belhaven, to reopen the hospital and "provide the more than 23,000 people in the surrounding areas with the vital health care they need."

To protest the closing of the hospital, O'Neal marched more than 200 miles to the nation's capital. O'Neal, a Republican, said hospital officials are putting profits over people's health. He also criticized elected state officials, who refused federal funding to expand Medicaid that would pay the bills of poor people.

Medicaid expansion is important to rural hospitals, which rely on foundations and charitable gifts to survive, O'Neal said.

Beaufort County's unemployment rate was 8 percent in May, compared with 6.4 percent for the entire state.

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