The mayor of a small coastal town with a recently-shuttered rural hospital began a nearly 300 mile walk to Washington, D.C. to call attention to his community’s lack of emergency medical care.
Adam O’Neal, the Republican mayor of Belhaven on North Carolina’s Inner Banks, began his walk after a brokered plan with Vidant Health to keep the Pungo District Hospital open fell apart last month. He’s expected to arrive in Washington in two weeks.
The nearest hospital and emergency care to the Beaufort County town is now in Greenville, nearly 50 miles and an hour’s drive away from Belhaven.
O’Neal has partnered with the N.C. NAACP to call for both Medicaid expansion and for the Belhaven hospital to stay open.
Vidant Health officials, when it initially announced its plan to close the hospital, said the N.C. legislature’s decision to not expand Medicaid meant the hospital wouldn’t be able to afford to stay open with a large segment of uninsured residents.
The Carolina Mercury posted this article today about O’Neal’s march, and included a letter from the mayor about the reasons behind the march.