First Images Inside Belhaven's Shuttered Hospital

Pungo Hospital


On Sept. 16 we learned from WNCT reporter Josh Birch that Vidant Health and its LLC have changed the locks to they hospital they closed down in Belhaven, NC hoping that no more images reach the public. At issue are claims that the hospital smells of mold and is falling apart from the inside — not accurate, but nonetheless convincing for those who wish to prevent the hospital from reopening — and, concerns that medical equipment estimated at $5 million has been removed.


We decided to share images we shot inside the hospital on Sept. 11, 2014 at the request of Birch.  Vidant Health and its local collaborators were reportedly enraged by the images shot inside the hospital that were included in this report by WITN's Brendan King. The aim of Vidant Health's press release, issued by way of Pantego Creek LLC in the form of a letter to its members, was to place blame on hospital advocates for the hospital having closed, and to put pressure on those advocates to abandon legal claims for damages. But images of the closed hospital, which show it to be in good condition, and missing a lot of expensive equipment, appear to have partially upstaged them in King's report.

Story of America is producing a feature film about this controversy, and not all of what we shoot is intended for immediate public release. However, in this case, Vidant Health and Pantego Creek, LLC have decided to change the locks and prevent more images of their handiwork from escaping. The public deserves to know the condition of the hospital in Belhaven. That is why have released these videos, and will continue to release more as long as the property remains off limits to the public.

CLICK for more about this controversy.

Showing 2 reactions

Please check your e-mail for a link to activate your account.
  • commented 2014-09-22 09:52:52 -0400
    Sandra, I commend you for your service to the community hospital and for your personal sacrifices for people’s healthcare. I’m sure you deserve more gratitude and recognition than you have received.

    However, I feel compelled to point out my disagreements with your claims.

    You seem to think that your 4-year volunteer experience on the foundation earns you the credibility to make assertions about the financial state of the hospital and the characters of various hospital advocates. The truth is, there are people with more years of residence in the community, more years involved on the PDHC board, more days spent in meetings about the hospital, who completely disagree with you. Many of the people who are most critical of Vidant and the LLC managers are LLC members who were once PDHC board members. Let me briefly summarize why they disagree with you.

    Vidant did not “buy” the hospital. If they did, what was the amount that they paid? Vidant did pay off over a million dollars in debt, but it also assumed control of the bank account that had close to a million at the time of the transfer, millions in account receivables, and a property estimated to be worth 9.6 million.

    The truth is there was no money exchanged in October 2011 when the contract was signed. It was not a purchase. It was an agreement to transfer control of Pungo District Hospital Corp from a community-based board to one controlled by Vidant executives. In exchange, Vidant promised to maintain and strengthen the hospital. Why else would PDHC board just give the hospital worth nearly 10 million to Vidant?

    A judge or jury will decide this once all the evidence is presented by both sides of the lawsuit, but it appears that Vidant deliberately misled the PDHC board members and the community. It is certainly arguable that Vidant’s intention was to close the hospital even before they entered negotiations with PDHC board in 2011. In any case, Vidant certainly did not hold up their end of the bargain to maintain and strengthen the hospital.

    I don’t know all the reasons behind some of the management decisions that were made in the past. I have heard that many people knew that the hospital needed to be significantly down-sized but no one on the board wanted to make the hard decisions that would lead to people in the community losing jobs. It’s the obvious management decision that was never made before board members became convinced in 2011 that Vidant would save the hospital.

    Yes, it’s true that I am not a long-time resident of Belhaven. Perhaps that gives me the fresh perspective I need to be more objective about the hospital issue since I see some people bringing a lot of old personal grudges and loyalties into a discussion that should be based on hard evidence such as financial numbers and legal documents.

    To understand the hospital issue, I have read all the legal documents that I can access, studied the business plan, and talked to a number of people with knowledge of rural hospital management in the community and outside the community.

    My guess is that you’ve not read the legal documents, studied the financial numbers, or seriously considered the business plan vetted by researchers from Duke, UNC-Chapel Hill and Campbell. It seems to me that you’re taking a less than objective position on the issue of the hospital because of your past personal conflicts with two or three of the main advocates of the hospital. Your hostility towards them is very obvious to me and I can’t help but think that it’s in the way of you recognizing that there are valid perspectives on the hospital even if they’re different from yours.
  • commented 2014-09-21 23:45:15 -0400
    Sandra, have you read the contract with Vidant/University Health Systems? If Vidant “bought” the equipment, how much did they pay for it?

    The fact is, there was no money exchanged at all. There was a transfer agreement signed in 2011 with Vidant promising to strengthen the hospital, not close it. You can see a copy of the transfer agreement at the Healthy Communities United HQ on Main Street.

    In video two, we do go into the few rooms with mold. See starting 5:40.

    Dr. Boyette did not avoid any room or area of the hospital and no one restricted our exploration of the building. I saw the rooms with my own eyes and we documented it with the camera. The reports of damage to the hospital has been grossly exaggerated.

    Dr. Boyette has served the people of the area for 50 years dutifully as a doctor. To my knowledge, he hasn’t lied about anything in regard to the hospital or anything else.

    I don’t understand what your ultimate goals are, but you don’t seem at all interested in hearing the truth about the hospital. Honestly, you seem intent on spreading misinformation and disparaging respected members of the community in a spiteful manner.