WILLIAMSTON, N.C. (WNCT) — Martin General Hospital is filing for bankruptcy and has closed, suspending operations effective immediately, the hospital said in a media release on Thursday.

The release states the hospital has lost $30 million since 2016 and $13 million in 2022. The hospital also cites “financial challenges related to declining population and utilization trends that were outlined in the county’s Feasibility Study.”

It also says, according to a study, “nearly 80% of Martin County residents are seeking care from health care providers other than Martin General. And as has been reported many times, utilization has declined by nearly 42%, and as the county’s population is shrinking (about 12% since 2010).”

Quorum owns and operated Martin General and had a lease agreement that ran through 2028. Back in March, Martin County Manager U. James Bennett sent out a press release about the county’s efforts to “find ways to ensure local healthcare continues to remain accessible.” The one-page flyer, “Keeping care in Martin County for generations to come,” stated at the time that “Martin General Hospital, which is operated by Quorum under a lease with specific service obligations that expire in 2028, is not immune to the market challenges facing rural hospitals.”

The hospital press release lists other places where people can go to seek health care:

  • Roanoke Clinics
  • Martin Family Medicine
  • Roanoke Orthopedics
  • Roanoke Specialty Services
  • Williamson Heart & Vascular and Roanoke Surgical

It also listed local clinics that will stay open and move to new offices at 232 Green Street in Williamston:

  • Williamson Heart & Vascular
  • Roanoke Specialty Services
  • Roanoke Surgical

Click here to read the full press release from Martin General Hospital.

“It’s devastating because we don’t have a hospital nowhere. This town is elderly there’s more elderly than young people here in the city of Williamston,” said Alonzo Brown, a Martin County resident.

Some people are devastated by this.

“It’s really important to me because I’m about to start school as AMC EMS student, and it’s so it affects my livelihood. I don’t know if I’m going to have a job that it’s going to be harder or you know, easier with this going on. And it affects my family. Me and my husband. We just got married, like what if I have kids, right? It’s really horrible,” said Princess Wilson, a Martin County resident.

Martin County Board of Commissioners Chairman, Ronnie Smith, says the commissioners had a meeting on Thursday with hospital officials to talk about what’s next. One possibility is to make it an emergency hospital. Congress just passed the Rural Emergency Hospital Act back in January and county officials hope that his funding will be available soon.

“It comes also with federal funding to help support the numerous rural hospitals across this country in the last two or three years, we have closed there have closed over 100 rural hospitals. And they look for ways to save rural hospitals. And this is one of the ways,” said Smith.

A post to the Martin County Government Facebook page and website stated what Smith said about work underway to fix the problem. The statement read:

“Martin County Government in conjunction with some of the staff of Martin General Hospital met on August 3, 2023. This meeting was following the announcement by Quorum closing of the hospital. During this meeting, a plan was discussed in how to keep the Emergency Room of the hospital open. If the legalities can be resolved, this would help in providing emergency service while we await a decision on the Rural Emergency Hospital authorization. Martin County has a team of attorneys working to help us with the bankruptcy by Quorum. Martin County EMS with the assistant of East Care will still provide air medical service to surrounding hospitals if needed. We ask for your patience during this time. Martin County Commissioners remain committed in helping to making health care available to all of its citizens.”

Smith says the future of the hospital was under negotiation for quite some time. He added that there are certain things that cannot be disclosed, which had to be honored.

“We have not closed the hospital. We did everything that we possibly could to try to negotiate with the organization that we believe that at the time, they felt like they had to leave. And so I just want the citizen to know that we’re doing everything within our power,” said Smith.