BELHAVEN, N.C. (WNCT) – A new plan to reopen Pungo Hospital would serve veterans within a 150 mile radius of Belhaven, and reduce travel time for many to get care.
The hospital has been closed since July 1, 2014, but the town and supporters have been fighting to reopen it ever since then.
Belhaven Mayor Adam O’Neal was joined Wednesday by Mike Hall, with Strategic Health Care L.L.C., to reveal a new plan to open the hospital back up. WNCT was the first to break the news about the idea, which Hall said would involve leasing 30-35 beds in the hospital to serve veterans.
“We want to provide a space for them that’s comfortable, and acceptable, and what they deserve,” Hall said.
Hall, who is a veteran himself, said all too often veterans are forgotten about. He said it is unacceptable, and by utilizing Pungo Hospital, more veterans could receive convenient care without traveling hours to other doctors.
O’Neal said the only thing holding them up now is the four managers of Pantego Creek L.L.C., who own the land. He said they have no right to keep ownership, as the hospital belongs to the community.
“Do you know who paid for that hospital? You did,” O’Neal said.
Emotions were high during the meeting, especially after the passing of former Belhaven mayor, and longtime hospital support, Dr. Charles Boyette earlier this week.
“We weren’t able to get him to an emergency room because there was no emergency room,” O’Neal said. “Would it have made a difference? I don’t know, but he should have had that opportunity.”
The plan to open the hospital up for veteran care was met with approval from the many veterans in attendance for the meeting.
Thomas Wahab, who served in World War II, Vietnam, and the Korean War, said the hospital was important for him.
“I used it many times, and now I have to go to Greenville,” he said.
O’Neal said Strategic Health Care L.L.C. plans to hire People’s Choice Hospital, based in Illinois, to manage the hospital. By leasing 30 beds, O’Neal said it would bring in between $2-3 million extra dollars in revenue each year.