It’s been more than three years since Pungo Hospital shut its doors in the small town of Belhaven.
“We’ve got people who need emergency care who aren’t getting it,” said former Belhaven Mayor Adam O’Neal.
Pungo Hospital was shut down by Vidant Health on July 1, 2014. It was later torn down in late December 2016.
While open, the hospital offered people in Hyde and eastern Beaufort Counties close access to emergency healthcare. Since closing, folks in the area are forced to go to Washington or the Outer Banks for the closest hospital.
Following the closure of Pungo, Vidant Health did open a 24/7 clinic in Belhaven.
But some argue the clinic doesn’t do enough.
“They take care of the normal day to day things that a doctors office would take care of,” O’Neal said.
The lack of emergency care in the area has become very apparent for families like the Credles in Swan Quarter. Back in May, they realized just how far they had to drive to get emergency help.
Jean Credle’s daughter, Anna, had been jumping on the couch before falling off and breaking her arm. After attempts to get care at the Belhaven clinic, and hospitals in both Washington and Greenville, Credle said she drove to Duke in Durham to get her daughter treatment.
“It was 3 or 3:30 in the morning., and this all happened at 7:30 at night,” she said. “It took us this long to find her anybody to get her help.”
The whole incident has led Credle to question what happens in the case of a life or death emergency. O’Neal said incidents like this are all too common, with emergency care lacking at the 24/7 clinic.
WNCT reached out to Vidant Health about this incident and asked whether they planned to improve the coverage of services offered. In response, we were issued the following statement:
“We are committed to providing the highest quality of care to all patients we serve, which includes the multispecialty clinic in Belhaven. In accordance with HIPAA, we are not able to comment on specific patient cases.”
But healthcare is just one of the issues those in Belhaven face following the closure of Pungo. Despite the restaurant scene buzzing and bringing in visitors, the town’s overall value plunged $25 million according to the most recent analysis by the Beaufort County Tax Office.
Since 2013 when the hospital was still open, property taxes in Belhaven have increased from 48 cents per $100 evaluation, to 59 cents per $100 evaluation. Water and sewer rates have also increased by 3 cents each in the town.
“Fortunately we didn’t raise it enough to affect too much,” said interim town manager Lloyd Ballance. “It may be a small increase to some.”
Rising taxes and lowing property values has created issues in the housing market as well.
“We’ve got houses on the waterfront here that have been on the market for 3 and 4 years,” said O’Neal, a real estate broke in town.
He said while some businesses, like restaurants, are holding their own, others continue to hurt years after the closure of Pungo.