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Plymouth, NC—Most people live within 20 minutes of an acute medical facility. And, up until a few weeks ago, Adam O’Neal was did also. But, on July 1, 2014 that changed for him and for 20,000 other residents in the Belhaven surrounding area.
|Mayor Adam O’Neal, “there’s a lot of politics here. Vidant gives a lot of money to campaigns.”|
Before the closure, O’Neal pleaded with lawmakers to keep the hospital open. He feared someone would die otherwise. Still, his pleas fell on deaf ears.
Mayor O’Neal teamed up with NC NAACP President, Rev. Dr. William Barber, and together they launched a media campaign to save the hospital.
It failed. On July 1, 2014—the hospital closed it’s doors with a sign saying, “if you seek emergency care, call 911.”
O’Neal and his town lost the only acute care hospital facility within a 75 mile area.
Not long after the hospital closed, the town’s worst fears became true. A 48 year old woman who suffered a heart attack died because she was too far away from the nearest emergency medical facility.
Dr. Howard Dean, former Vermont governor and presidential candidate said on MSNBC that in all likelihood, the woman would have probably survived had she been closer to emergency medical care.
Pictured left to right: Mayor of Plymouth, NC Brian Roth, standing on right Rev. Barber sitting right is Mayor O’Neal
Mayor Adam O’Neal is now walking to Washington, D.C. in an effort to speak with federal officials hoping his town’s hospital can open again.
Joined by legendary civil rights leaders such as Bob Zillner and Dr. William Barber, who organized the Moral Monday rallies protesting Republican legislation in North Carolina, the team hopes to get enough local support and media attention to force government officials to help.
According to O’Neal, over 30 percent of the population he serves lives in poverty. They do not have the financial means to drive well over an hour one way for their medical care.
I caught up with Mayor O’Neal in Plymouth, NC—about 40 miles outside of Belhaven which was the location of the Vidant Pungo Hospital.
I was able to quickly ask him and Rev. Dr. William Barber some questions during a lunch press conference just before the afternoon walk began.
As much as some lawmakers refuse to respond a few politicians are taking notice.
Marshall Adame is the Democratic candidate for the United States House of Representatives in the 3rd district of North Carolina. He was on the telephone with Mayor O’Neal asking what he could do to help.
Adame is running against Republican incumbent, Walter B. Jones. Jones has been in the House for twenty years.
Adame had these remarks to say:
Video below: Mayor Adam O’Neal and famed civil rights leader, Bob Zellner walking in the rain to Washington, D. C.