Thursday, April 3, 2014

NC NAACP and Belhaven and Vidant Sign Agreement to Save Hospital

April 3, 2014

For more information: Jennifer Farmer, Advancement Project, 202.487.0967

                                    Sarah Bufkin, Media Coordinator, 404.285.3413

Giving Thanks, the NC NAACP, Its Beaufort and Hyde Co. Branches, the Town of Belhaven and Vidant Health Sign a Historic Agreement to Save the Pungo District Hospital and to Save Lives in These Eastern North Carolina Communities

The full text of this historic agreement will be released to the media and the public this evening after the signing ceremony.

BELHAVEN - We announce today a historic agreement between the NC NAACP state conference, our Hyde and Beaufort County branches, the Town Council of Belhaven - led by our friend, Mayor Adam O'Neal - and the Vidant Group, our new friends and partners in helping to provide quality medical care to all the people served by the Pungo District Hospital in Belhaven.

The agreement memorializes the work of an extraordinary group of people who were brought together by the U.S. Department of Justice's Community Relations Service and one of its skilled mediators, Ms. Suzanne Buchanan. We agreed to put aside past differences and to focus on the issue of how to provide quality medical care to the people of eastern Beaufort County and Hyde County in the heart of one of the poorest areas in the state.

The state's rejection of the Medicaid expansion offered by the U.S. government had created new conditions for the Vidant Group, which bought the venerable Pungo Hospital in 2011, believing it could be a viable concern. When Gov. Pat McCrory decided to reject the federal government's offer of millions of dollars in Medicaid funding, Vidant was forced to re-consider its recent purchase and believed it had to close the hospital. Instead, the health provider planned to replace the hospital with a 24/7 clinic in the same general area and to transport emergency patients to its nearest hospital in Washington, NC - about 45 minutes further west from Belhaven.

The people who had been served by the hospital's doctors, nurses and excellent facilities reacted vigorously to this news. The NC NAACP and our branches heard scores of stories of people who would have died without the Belhaven Emergency Room. We knew that pregnant women with no insurance would be reluctant to go to a place that they did not view as safe, welcoming and friendly, as the Pungo Hospital has been for years. The NC NAACP believed the closing would disparately impact people of color in these communities and filed a Title VI complaint with the Department of Health and Human Services, which then referred the case to the Community Relations Service for Mediation.

In late March, we all were aware that Vidant had made a tough fiscal decision to close the Hospital on April 1, 2014. As we met and got to know each other better, it became evident that we could not only keep the Hospital open, but we could help transform it into a new model of a community-based rural hospital - one that could serve people effectively and become a center for both health care and preventative health initiatives that would begin to drive down health care costs. 

For two weeks, we worked on this historic agreement. Tonight, on the beautiful shores of the Pungo Sound, where many of our members and friends who join us tonight have been brought up, feeling at home by the clean ocean waters, in the fresh ocean air, and beneath this magnificent cathedral of sunlight, clouds and stars we are provided with every day by the creator of all things, we slow down our lives for a few moments and give thanks. 


Founded in 1909, the NAACP is the nation's oldest and largest civil rights organization. Its members throughout the United States and the world are the premier advocates for civil rights in their communities. The NC Conference of NAACP Branches is 70 years old this year and is made up of over 100 Adult, Youth and College NAACP units across the state, convenes more than 160 members of the Historic Thousands on Jones Street (HKonJ) People's Assembly Coalition, and is the architect of the Moral Monday & Forward Together Movement.  


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