Belhaven Mayor Adam O’Neal completed a walk from his small Eastern North Carolina town to the nation’s capital today, calling on national leaders to help rural communities with sparse healthcare options.
The 283-mile walk – the second year the Republican mayor has done it –– was to bring attention to the pressures faced by the nation’s 283 rural hospitals, especially those in states like North Carolina that opted not to expand Medicaid coverage.
O’Neal reached the steps of the U.S. Capitol Monday, and was joined at a rally with other advocates and allies, including American Federation of Teachers president Randi Weingarten, Belhaven Town Council member Julian Goff and the Rev. William Barber, head of the N.C. NAACP.
Belhaven, located in Beaufort County near the Pamlico Sound, lost its local hospital in 2014, when the hosptial’s owners opted to shut down the small healthcare facility because it couldn’t afford to stay open after North Carolina lawmakers chose to not expand Medicaid coverage in the state.
Residents now have to travel to Greenville for emergency care, a trip that can take over an hour.