U.S. Senator Kay Hagan (D-NC) has sent a letter to U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius expressing concern about the upcoming closure of Vident Pungo Hospital in Belhaven.
The hospital is slated to close on April 1 because Vidant Health said the building is more than 60 years old, had a nearly $1.8 million deficit last year, and is located in a flood-prone area.
Vidant Health said they will build a new 24/7 multi-specialty clinic in or near Belhaven to replace Vidant Pungo Hospital. The new facility is expected to be completed within 18 months.
But according to Sen. Hagan's office, Vidant Pungo Hospital is the only facility that currently provides emergency care services for the 25,000 people living in Beaufort and Hyde counties. In addition, the area has been designated by the Health Resources and Services Administration as a Primary Health Care Professional Shortage Area, Dental Health Care Professional Shortage Area, and Medically Underserved Area.
In Sen. Hagan's letter, she urged Secretary Sebelius and the Office of Civil Rights to get community leaders and hospital administrators together to come up with a solution that would preserve access to emergency health services for area residents.
"Without the hospital, individuals in this small, rural town could face commutes as long as an hour and a half to reach the nearest emergency room," wrote Hagan. "I urge you to prioritize and expedite the investigation that is now open related to the closure of Vidant Pungo Hospital, and work to develop a voluntary resolution that will allow the people of Belhaven to continue to have access to critical emergency care services."