Yearender: A look back at the big health stories of 2015


GREENVILLE, N.C. (WNCT) – There were a lot of big healthcare stories that took place during 2015 across the East.

First, in Belhaven, the town continued their fight to re-open Pungo Hospital, which closed its doors back in July 2014. Mayor Adam O’Neal remained committed to reopening the facility because it was a lifesaver for a lot of people.

During 2015, O’Neal, along with others, walked to D.C. and Raleigh to bring the crisis facing rural hospitals across the country to the attention of lawmakers.

In the process, O’Neal helped to spark national and state legislation to help rural hospitals. Earlier in the Fall, state lawmakers in Raleigh changed the language in the Certificate of Need Law which would help the town of Belhaven gain control over the hospital’s property.

“What we need is fairness,” O’Neal said. “If a community has the money and the will to open their hospital, we should be able to open it.”

Also during 2015, new technology at Vidant was credited for saving dozens of lives. A machine called ECMO had helped save more than a dozen lives during the first half of the year. The machine continues to pump and oxygenate the blood for patients who had serious heart surgery or complications.

“Certainly gives me a new appreciation for life, of things can change on a dime, just immediately,” said James Kleckley, who credits the machine for saving his life.

Vidant also used something called CardioMEM, which helped doctors and patients realize a heart problem before it became more serious.

And at the Brody School of Medicine, researchers continued to look for a cure for cancer. Using an agent called cannabinoids, researchers found they could better target medicine to the tumor site itself, ultimately making treatments more effective.

“We’re going to try to make sure that the standard of care we have for your children is better than the standard of care we have for you, and the only way that’s going to change is by research,” said Bob Lust.

Brody researchers said they are committed to continue to forget ahead on national health problems to not only improve health in the East, but around the world.

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