Should Not for Profit companies that make $100,000,000 in a year be able to close a designated critical access hospital (like Vidant's Belhaven)?
- for a new immoral business plan?
At least 14 rural hospitals have closed since last year, according to several reports.
"With us being so far away from everything, and not having an emergency room here, my wife's dead," her widower, Barry Gibbs, told Story of America as part of its "Battle for Belhaven" documentary web series. Residents of the Belhaven area need to travel more than an hour to receive emergency care. 48-year-old Portia Gibbs of Hyde County died after suffering a diabetic episode that triggered a heart attack
. Vidant Pungo was 47 miles from the Gibbs' home, but now the closest hospital is 75 miles away. Emergency responders decided to wait for a helicopter instead of driving -- but it took over an hour
to arrive, and by then it was too late.
O'Neal and others charge that the hospital's closing violates the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The NC NAACP filed a complaint under the law's Title VI banning discrimination by government agencies that receive federal funds, arguing that the hospital's closing would disproportionately affect minorities. The Department of Justice offered mediation, and Vidant Health agreed to work out a settlement allowing the hospital to be returned to the community -- but then shut its doors anyway. The NAACP refiled the federal complaint.
"This is not about mere dollars and cents," said the NC NAACP's Barber, who joined O'Neal for the start of his walk. "It's about life and death.
O’Neal and others argued that Vidant makes hundreds of millions
in annual profits
and that keeping open smaller facilities such as Pungo also turns a profit, just not as much as closing them and instead opening urgent-care facilities.
O’Neal’s argument that expanding Medicaid under ObamaCare could have prevented the hospital's closure puts him at odds with Republican leaders, considering North Carolina and 23 other states, all GOP-controlled and mostly southern, have refused Medicaid expansion
O'Neal is also raising concerns about wealthy nonprofit hospital corporations
like Greenville, NC-based Vidant Health shutting down critical
access hospitals like Vidant Pungo. "Not for Profit companies that make $100,000,000 in a year shouldn't be able to close a hospital like Belhaven's they own for a new immoral business plan," O'Neal wrote in a press release published in his local paper. "We the people need to stand together to protect healthcare for all of us."
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