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Plymouth closure prompts assistance from Vidant

Jay Briley

Jay Briley

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Bobby Burns
The Daily Reflector

Friday, February 22, 2019

Vidant Health is reaching out to employees of Washington County Hospital and offering assurances to residents who are in a void created by the closure of the struggling facility in Plymouth.

The hospital in January stopped accepting ambulance-transport patients and on Feb. 14 suspended all clinical services because of ongoing financial trouble, according to reports in the Roanoke Beacon and the hospital’s Facebook page.

The newspaper reported that many employees have gone weeks without pay, and on Monday the county’s Board of Commissioners voted to file suit to force the hospital’s parent company to file bankruptcy and to activate a contract clause that would revert the facility back to the county’s ownership.

On Thursday, human resources personnel from Vidant spent the day in Plymouth to provide personal and professional support and to advise officials about possible next steps, Jay Briley, president of Vidant Community Hospitals, said during a briefing in Greenville on Thursday.

“Health care in eastern North Carolina is a tight-knit community and we received a number of calls and emails from residents in Washington County, including some of the former employees of Washington County Hospital, and we want to make sure that we're supporting them,” Briley said.

The Plymouth facility serves a large rural area in Washington, Tyrrell and Hyde counties. Briley assured residents who have relied on the hospital that medical practices elsewhere are prepared to care for them while county officials and hospital administrators navigate decisions about its future.

Residents have access to critical care through Vidant and non-Vidant hospitals and medical practices in and around Washington County, Briley said. Hospitals around the region include Vidant Bertie in Windsor, Martin General in Williamston, Vidant Beaufort in Washington, N.C., Vidant Chowan in Edenton, the Outer Banks Hospital in Nags Head and the 24-hour Vidant Multi Specialty Clinic in Belhaven.

Online options like Vidant Now also are available for those with internet and cellular access, Briley said. Patients can set up accounts at vidantnow.com and consult with health care professionals “virtually” over their computers and mobile devices for nonemergency care.

Washington County EMS also is prepared to provide immediate care until an ambulance can reach a facility like Vidant-Bertie, which along with Martin General often would be the closest facility for much of the county’s population. Further transport to Greenville’s tertiary care facility can be provided from those locations if necessary.

“I'll certainly say that health care in rural settings ... is very challenging,” Briley said. “So to understand that a rural community hospital in the United States is challenged in the way that Washington County hospital is unfortunately becoming all too common.”

The nonprofit Vidant has tried to overcome challenges by opening facilities like its multispecialty clinic in Belhaven, a smaller but state-of-the art clinic staffed by local doctors, nurses, nurse practitioners and physician assistants.

The clinic offers a range of services and is open nights, weekends and holidays and has a helicopter landing pad and ambulance service.

Briley said there has been no discussion about opening a similar operation in Plymouth.

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