WASHINGTON D.C. - A North Carolina mayor fighting to reopen a hospital in his rural town is meeting with officials at the nation's capital.
Belhaven Mayor Adam O'Neal told NewsChannel 12's Averi Harper Tuesday morning he is planning to meet with Congressman David Price, as well as officials with the Department of Health and Human Services to discuss the closing of Vidant Pungo Hospital.
Mayor O'Neal arrived in Washington D.C. on Monday. He met last week in Richmond, Virginia, with Gov. Terry McAuliffe. Neither state has expanded Medicaid under the federal health care overhaul law, something O'Neal blames for his local hospital closing.
North Carolina NAACP President, Rev. William Barber was also in the nation's capital with Mayor O'Neal supporting his cause on Monday.
The 45-year-old registered Republican started his two-week, 300-mile march after the hospital closed July 1. O'Neal says he wants to speak with U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder about an investigation into whether the closing violates the Civil Rights Act. Holder's agency this year helped facilitate an agreement that kept the hospital open until July.
Vidant Health System said it was losing money, the condition of the building was deteriorating, and there wasn't enough patients to keep the hospital running. Vidant officials added they have opened a 24-hour, 7-days-a-week clinic, and ambulatory services will also be available in the town. Vidant officials said they will move forward with plans to fulfill its agreement with Pantego Creek to build a new 12,000-square-foot multi-specialty clinic in Belhaven.
There was even an attempt to transfer ownership of the hospital to the Town of Belhaven, but that attempt was unsuccessful after Pantego Creek, LLC, the company that oversaw Vidant's takeover of Pungo Hospital in 2011, did not agree to a transfer of ownership to the town. Mayor O'Neal said he is still hopeful that transfer will be discussed in the future.
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