June 12, 2014

Commissioners vote to share county support for
Vidant in Avon with Hatteras Medical Center

The Dare County Board of Commissioners at its meeting on Monday night voted unanimously to give half of the $100,000 in support that it contributes to Vidant Health, which operates Vidant Family Care in Avon, to the newly reopened Hatteras Medical Center.

Beginning with the next fiscal year, which begins July 1, $50,000 in county funds will go to Vidant and $50,000 will go to Hatteras Medical Center in Hatteras village.

The motion to split the support between the two centers was made by Hatteras Island Commissioner Allen Burrus.

The discussion on the motion included some of the recent history of health clinics on the island.

At one point, there were two health centers, owned by the Greenville-based University Health Systems of Eastern Carolina.

In July of 2010, according to Warren Judge, University Health Systems "rode into town" and told county officials that the centers were bleeding money, and Dare County had two weeks to decide whether to pay lots more money to keep them open, look elsewhere, or close one or both facilities.

Dare County Manager Bobby Outten said at that time that UHS representatives told the county at the meeting that July that it had to choose between three scenarios:

  • The health system, which runs Pitt County Memorial Hospital in Greenville and is a partner in The Outer Banks Hospital in Nags Head, would leave Hatteras Island altogether.
  • The county would continue to pay about $100,000 a year to provide for reduced on-call services, and to keep one clinic open. After-hours nursing care would also be discontinued.
  • The county would pay $300,000 annually to keep both clinics operating, on-call services would be reduced and after-hours nursing care would be cut.

Eventually, the deadline was extended until Jan. 1, 2011.

The county refused to pay the $300,000, and on Dec. 31, 2010, University Health Systems closed the Hatteras village center and pulled back to its newer center in Avon.

In 2012, University Health Systems re-branded its health systems and they are now known as Vidant Health. Vidant is made up of nine hospitals, physician practices, home health, hospice, wellness centers, and other health care services. 

The Hatteras Medical Center building and the land upon which it was located belongs to Dare County. After the center closed, Hatteras villagers, backed by the county, vowed to reopen it with a new medical provider.

The county refurbished the building and a medical provider was finally located and the center was reopened late last year.  She was a physician's assistant, who was replaced in April by nurse practitioner Gail Covington.  The center is now open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. until noon and from 1 until 5 p.m.

Burrus said at the board meeting Monday night that he thought splitting the $100,000 in support was "the right thing to do."

"At one point maybe they needed it," he said. "But now it doesn't make a difference."

The $50,000, he said, is important to the Hatteras center, he said, to help it get more grants and move forward.

Burrus also noted that Vidant has a history of pulling its facilities out of areas,  noting that it recently closed a hospital in Belhaven.

"I'm not comfortable that Vidant will stay on Hatteras Island," Burrus said. "We need to prepare for what might happen down the road."

If the company does close the Avon center, he added, the Hatteras Medical Center would become vital to health care on the island.

Judge asked if the county had a contract with Vidant.

Burrus noted that University Health Systems wouldn't agree to a contract to keep Avon open for a certain number of years in exchange for the continued $100,000 in county support.

"They wouldn't agree to a contract, so I don't feel we owe them anything," he said.

Furthermore, Burrus told the board, "If they leave over $50,000, they're leaving anyway."

His motion to split the $100,000 was seconded by Virginia Tillett and approved unanimously after discussion.



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