BELHAVEN, BEAUFORT COUNTY - Vidant Health officials have announced that they plan to contribute $1 million to the town of Belhaven, to go towards the operation of Vidant Pungo.
Town officials say they need $3 million to keep the hospital running. Beaufort County commissioners voted to give the town $2 million, and if they do so, Vidant officials say they will provide the other $1 million.
"That saves lives, granted it may only be 3 or 4 a month or a year or whatever, but that's just lives they're saving," said Belhaven resident Aaron Stevens.
This comes on the heels of last week's announcement from the NAACP, who had threatened to sue Vidant on behalf of Belhaven, that they had reached an agreement with Vidant officials to keep the hospital open.
Last September, Vidant officials announced that they would be shutting down the hospital in favor of a new 24-hour-care facility. The hospital was scheduled to be shut down on April 1st.
"It means a whole lot this is a lot of elderly people, we have a lot of young people, we have a lot of people in poverty, and a lot of people don't have transportation to get to Washington," said Belhaven Councilman Greg Satterthwaite.
Now, residents who were once speaking out against Vidant officials, are praising them.
"I think that was one of the nicest things that they could ever do," said Belhaven resident Arthur Bonner.
Vidant plans to run the hospital until June 30th. In the meantime, they will be helping the town form a board, which would then take over operations on July 1st.
"We needed the money and it's coming, everything is coming into place. All we need is time and people to work together, stay together, pray together and everything's gonna be all right," said Satterthwaite.
Vidant officials say the hospital will be free of any long-term debt, because they paid it off in 2011.
NAACP officials call the agreement a historic event, and an example of how to save rural hospitals across America.