The Pungo District Hospital in Belhaven has been financially troubled for years, and that’s putting it mildly. But now a controversy, perhaps a constructive one, has erupted over a plan to demolish the hospital. And a judge has issued a restraining order to prevent that from happening, at least for a while.
Some members of a nonprofit that owns the building claim managers of the group misled them to encourage their support for a plan to tear down the hospital. Vidant Health took over the hospital in 2011, and promised to fix its problems. But now the company says the hospital simply isn’t viable.
The story of the hospital is not uncommon in rural areas, where many patients are poor and thus the hospital has to rely on Medicare and Medicaid. But in this case, a group led by Belhaven Mayor Adam O’Neal offered $500,000 to buy the hospital. That was rejected. The group hopes to use a federal grant and private money to open an emergency room in the hospital and possibly look for other types of medical services to house there.
That seems a reasonable idea, if perhaps not the most convenient for Vidant. While it may be understandable that the company was overwhelmed by financial problems there, it appears community leaders are making a good-faith effort to save something the people in this area desperately need. State officials should help them make it work.