WILLIAMSTON, N.C. (WNCT) — It’s been a week since the announcement that Martin General Hospital was closing its doors. The shocking news is still the buzz in Williamston.
A meeting was scheduled for Wednesday night by the Martin County Commissioners to discuss what could be next. Two business owners in Williamston spoke with WNCT about the impact the hospital void leaves in the community.
“When you start, it does mean a lot,” said Gary Manning, owner of Shaw’s Barbecue House. “I mean there’s a lot of relationships, family and friends that come in here and all of us have some type of tie to the hospital.”
Manning’s business is right across the street from where the hospital operated. He said for years, his restaurant maintained a strong relationship with the hospital and the people who worked there.
“They usually get a big order together and when I see their name on the caller ID, I would usually say this is Shaw’s Barbeque, Martin General’s biggest supporter,” Manning said with a smile. “We send so many people with high cholesterol.”
Manning said he hopes with the hospital not operating anymore it doesn’t affect the traffic coming and out of his business.
“We haven’t felt it as bad yet, but our heart goes out to all the employees,” Manning said. “The community is really starting to rally around. I mean we got to support them through this and hope that something can be resolved to get our hospital back.”
Down the street from Shaw’s, the Shamrock Restaurant will also lose some business now that the hospital has shut its doors.
“Once a month we always have the healthy circle that comes in and eats,” said Shamrock Restaurant Owner Rona Coltrain. “One Tuesday night a month they come in to eat so I think that’s gonna impact the doctors, the nurses that come to eat. They won’t come in to eat as much.
“It just depends on how many people there are. They might have 12, sometimes they might have 25 or 30 people coming in.”
Overall, both business owners said they hope something can be done about the hospital because not only do the employees need it, the community needs it as well.
Before Wednesday’s meeting
The Martin County commissioners allowed the public to speak at a forum that began at 7 p.m. After that, the board was scheduled to go into closed session with its attorney.
On Wednesday, commissioners released details on its attempts to keep the hospital open. In a Facebook post, officials said on July 19, “Quorum presented Martin County Government with the following term sheet minus some revisions. We were given initially (5) days to provide a decision as to whether to accept the offer. We negotiated an extension for an additional (6) days which culminated on August 2, 2023. Martin County Board of Commissioners met on August 1, 2023, to discuss the Terms further. Each member of the Board reviewed and gave input on the terms. At the conclusion of the meeting, our attorney was directed to ask for additional information. On August 2, 2023, we were notified that Quorum had closed the doors of Martin General Hospital.”
Anger, frustration, confusion
Healthcare workers in Martin County who spoke to WNCT on Wednesday said they never thought they’d be jobless and living in a county that doesn’t have a working hospital.
“I’ve been with Martin General for 37 years,” said Chery Reed, who was a managing director at the hospital. “The employees were blindsided, we knew Quorum was not doing anything to help us but we had no idea that they would come in and shut the doors.
“Of course, we’re all worried about our jobs but I’m worried about the citizens of Martin County who have no emergency room to go to. Lives are going to be lost.”
When the doors to the hospital closed for good, patients were taken to other area hospitals. The employees who spoke with WNCT said it feels like their house burned down and now they have nowhere else to go.
“As a physician in the community, I realize access to healthcare is really important,” said physician Steven Manning. “I’ve been here, I grew up here all my life and went to Greenville for med school and came back to work. I worked at the hospital for three years. Did the ER side, did the inpatient side, have done really everything and realized the importance of Medicare in the community.”
Healthcare workers who spoke at Wednesday’s meeting expressed anger, confusion and frustration. Martin County resident Princess Wilson told WNCT she felt that way when the hospital closed.
“I really would like, let the cat out of the bag, let us know what’s really going on about this hospital and what we can do to open this hospital back up,” Wilson said.
People in the room said that was not enough.
“It was my family there and seeing it, I mean I’ve grown up, worked around everybody and seeing it close down like that it means something to me because I’m seeing everybody getting their heart broke,” said Martin County resident Justin Gurganus.
There is another meeting with commissioners and county leaders on Thursday at 2 p.m.