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Belhaven Plans To Buy Back Hospital Through Eminent Domain

A picture of downtown Belhaven.
Property Wizard
The mayor of Belhaven says the loss of the local hospital has impeded the town's economy as well as health care access.

Belhaven Mayor Adam O'Neal says the eastern North Carolina town plans to use eminent domain to buy the local hospital Vidant Health closed last year.

Mayor Adam O'Neal says the new $5.5 million dollar clinic Vidant is building in the town isn't enough.

"Emergency vehicles can't go to their clinic. They don't have the ability to handle heart attacks, strokes, traumatic injuries, car accidents. They can't handle a snake bite," O'Neal says. "We have from Washington, N.C., to Nags Head 130 mile stretch where there's no emergency room now."

Dr. Mark Rumans  is Vidant Health's Assistant Chief Medical Officer. He says the company is making significant investments in emergency transportation, including adding a helipad at the new clinic.

O'Neal has walked to Raleigh and Washington, D.C. to lobby government officials for help to reopen the empty former Pungo Hospital, which is now owned by the Pantego Creek, LLC community board. 

He says he was happy with a General Assembly decision which would allow the town to reopen the hospital without applying for a Certificate of Need from the state.

"And they put an amendment into the Certificate of Need Law which allows communities in North Carolina, if you give notice within three years of your hospital closure, that you can reopen your hospital without going through the certificate of need process. So, in our journey here to reopen Belhaven, we have also affected North Carolina law, which I think is important."

O'Neal adds that the U.S. Department of Agriculture has promised Belhaven $6 million in rural development loans to get the hospital running again.

Attorney Arey Grady represents Pantego Creek, LLC. He says Belhaven's eminent domain petition has not yet been filed in the judicial system.

Rebecca Martinez produces podcasts at WUNC. She’s been at the station since 2013, when she produced Morning Edition and reported for newscasts and radio features. Rebecca also serves on WUNC’s Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Accountability (IDEA) Committee.
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