BELHAVEN, N.C. (WNCT) – Protesters gathered Wednesday outside the old Pungo Hospital in Belhaven as part of a last-ditch effort to save the historic hospital.
Earlier this month, the hospital’s owners, Pantego Creek LLC, sent an email out to members asking them to vote on whether to tear the building down.
On Wednesday, their attorney, Arey Grady, told WNCT he knew of only one member who hadn’t gotten that ballot. The rest of the votes overwhelming supported the tear down.
But Mildred Bowan said that isn’t true because she knows at least two who didn’t receive the ballot. One of whom being herself. She emailed her vote in, saying she didn’t want to tear it down.
“I’m 71 years old,” she said. “I don’t have anyone to carry me back and forth to a hospital.”
It has been an ongoing fight to reopen the hospital since its closure in July 2014.
On Monday, crews began the demolition process by removing asbestos and mold from the building. This came around the same time the North Carolina Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the LLC and against the town, in part saying the town had no right to own the land.
Belhaven Mayor Adam O’Neal has led the effort to reopen the hospital for three years.
“People want a hospital, and politics, and political tricks, and lawyer tricks, have got us in a situation where these four people dictate healthcare to 15,000 people,” O’Neal said. “It’s wrong, and we’ve got people dying.”
O’Neal called the hospital a lifeline for thousands of people.
One of those most impacted is 17-year-old Jomaurie Rodman, who was diagnosed with a heart condition and forced to move from Hyde to Beaufort County to be closer to a hospital.
“I moved away from my friends, from my family, and I go to a different school now, so my life has changed a lot,” she said.
One of the construction workers on scene told WNCT the building could be torn down as early as November 28.
The town said they will offer $500,000 to the owners Friday, in hopes of saving the hospital one last time. O’Neal is hoping they will do the right thing.
“If they do not do the right thing, they’re going to have the blood of all the people who died without that emergency room in the future on their hands,” he said.