WASHINGTON, N.C. (WNCT) – Beaufort County Commissioners met Tuesday night and voted to dissolve the Vidant Beaufort Hospital board.
Commissioners voted 6 to 1 on the measure that has more than $6 million at stake.
The board, set up in 2001, was intended to insulate Beaufort County from any possible liabilities stemming from the hospital. It was continued in 2011 when Vidant took over the hospital, and was still responsible for any liability suits dating back to before Vidant took control of the hospital.
The decision means the county will have control over $6.5 million once facilitated by the hospital board. If the commissioners had not voted to dissolve it and let it expire in September 2016, the board would have maintained control of the money.
Residents worry the decision will compromise their healthcare.
Hood Richardson was the lone commissioner in favor of keeping the hospital board. He raised concerns the county would not use the money for healthcare.
Richardson is worried the decision will have ripple effects in Hyde County. Vidant Beaufort is their closest emergency room, after Belhaven’s hospital closed last year.
“Once Beaufort County has the cash on hand by a simple vote of 4 the commissioners could build the jail without borrowing money from,” said Richardson. “This would be an egregious misuse of funds placed in trust to be used for health needs.”
Other commissioners maintained they would only use the money for healthcare services.
“I want to assure the people in this room and the people in this county, I’m not for building a new jail using this money,” Commissioner Frankie Waters assured. “This money is…we understand what its for…its for healthcare.”
This stance was echoed by fellow commissioner Ron Buzzeo who made the original motion.
“I want to assure the residents that, that money will only be used for healthcare issues within the county,” said Buzzeo.
The board’s dissolution will take effect September 1, 2015.