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Tuesday forum to tackle Belhaven health care

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Vidant Health officials and people living in Belhaven will meet tonight to talk about the closing of the hospital and get information on what the new proposed medical facility will offer.
    
The forum begins at 7 o'clock at the Wilkinson Center on Main Street in Belhaven.
    
The hospital is set to close in six months and be replaced with a 24-hour clinic.

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More than one hundred people showed up to rally to save Vidant Pungo Hospital in Belhaven.

On Wednesday Vidant Health officials made the announcement that they are closing the Belhaven’s only hospital. In its place, they plan to build a multi-specialty facility that will provide the same services, with the exception of inpatient care.

Belhaven resident, James Moore, says having to be transported to another hospital in an emergency could be life threatening.

"I have different attacks and what not.  If I don't get help immediately I don't know what I'm going to do," said Moore.

Also at the rally, Belhaven resident Larry Garyantez, who says he moved to the city to be close to a hospital. Now that the hospital may close he says having to drive to Washington and Greenville to get care is a problem.

Belhaven Mayor, Adam O’Neal, has been quite vocal about the motivation of the health official closure of the hospital.

"The Vidant executives are making decisions based on their compensation packages that are costing us our healthcare," said O’Neal.

The hospital is set to close in six months. However, the residents have drafted a resolution and passed around a petition to try and get the hospital reconsider their decision.

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People in Belhaven are gathering to protest the closing of their hospital.

The gathering follows the announcement that Vidant Pungo Hospital in Belhaven will shut down and be replaced with a 24-hour clinic.

Vidant Health officials made the announcement on Wednesday.

Dr. David Herman, Vidant Health's CEO, says the decision "tough" but necessary, while Belhaven Mayor Adam O'Neal says it will be "detrimental" to the community.

"We have a greedy nonprofit doing immoral things," O'Neal told 9 On Your Side just hours after the Vidant Pungo Hospital Board voted for the closure.

"These folks in Greenville at Vidant Health don't care about the people of Belhaven," he said. "They care about making money. That's the only thing they're thinking about and it's to our detriment."

Vidant Health bought the 66-year-old hospital in 2011, but last year realized it cost nearly $2 million to operate. Officials have now decided to shut it down within the next six months.

Vidant Health officials will pick a site and begin construction on the new clinic in or near Belhaven later this year. It will be a multispecialty clinic that will have a helipad for emergency transport and provide the same health services as the current hospital with the exception of inpatient care.

Patients needing overnight stays will now have to travel to hospitals in Washington, Plymouth or Nag's Head instead.

"These are not comfortable or pleasant decisions for all or any of us," Dr. Herman said after the vote. "However, these are decisions that need to be made in order to keep healthcare, No. 1 present in the communities that we serve, and No. 2 affordable in the communities that we serve."

The shut-down will also layoff 90-100 people in a county where the unemployment rate is already nearly 11 percent.

"It's going to be detrimental, extremely detrimental," said Jennifer Alligood, who lives in Belhaven and has friends who work at the hospital.

Dr. Herman promises he'll work to find employees other jobs within Vidant Health's system, but O'neal says it will be too little, too late.

"I don't see any positive to what they're doing whatsoever other than padding their bottom line," O'Neal said.

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