Editorials

A noble fight ends for Belhaven hospital

A sign on the closed Vidant Pungo Hospital in Bellhaven, N.C. The hospital was closed in July 2014. The hospital operated in Bellhaven for 65-years servicing patients from Beaufort and Hyde counties in eastern North Carolina.
A sign on the closed Vidant Pungo Hospital in Bellhaven, N.C. The hospital was closed in July 2014. The hospital operated in Bellhaven for 65-years servicing patients from Beaufort and Hyde counties in eastern North Carolina. rwillett@newsobserver.com

The building started coming down Wednesday at dark. The demolition came after a noble fight on the part of residents of the Belhaven area in Eastern NC to save a building to provide emergency medical care for rural residents. They wanted to preserve the historic Pungo District Hospital building.

Rural health care in North Carolina is in crisis generally. Specialists are hard to find, and small hospitals have a yeoman’s task of trying to stay open because of economic pressures. In this case, the hospital, a product of local and federal money built more than 60 years ago, was taken over by Vidant Health in 2011. But the company closed it in 2014.

Belhaven Mayor Adam O’Neal led the fight to create an emergency services facility, but it was an uphill fight from the start. That made it no less worthy, however, and those who carried on the battle can be proud of what they did.

Now it falls, or should, to North Carolina leaders including Gov. Roy Cooper and legislative chiefs to address the increasingly difficult issue of health care for the poor in rural areas. Folks who might have been served by a facility in Belhaven, for example, could now be more than an hour from the nearest emergency room. That should not be acceptable. Let us hope some lawmakers, or several, will take up this cause.

Would that they could bring to it the same passion and strength shown by the battlers of Belhaven.

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