Republican Mayor to Begin 273-Mile Walk to DC to Ask Obama, Congress to Help Save Rural Hospital
NAACP's Rev. Dr. William Barber to say prayer, join community in walking first leg, GOP Mayor Emerges as National Voice for Medicaid Expansion
(Washington, DC) On Monday the Republican Mayor of Belhaven, NC will begin a 14-day, 273-mile walk to the White House where he will ask for President Obama's help with a healthcare crisis that has already caused loss of life, and threatened the well being of thousands in his rural community.
When Vidant Health, Inc. purchased, and announced the closure of Pungo District Hospital, Mayor Adam O'Neal emerged as a fiery advocate for the hospital, and the 23K people who depend on it. Thousands in his region must now travel as many as 84 miles to receive critical care. O'Neal and others believe the hospital was closed on July 1, 2014 in violation of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.
The mayor will carry with him the story Portia Gibbs, 48, the first person to die for lack of emergency care since the hospital's closing. Her husband and her children will be there on Monday at 9 a.m. to see the mayor off.
Moral Monday leader Rev. Dr. William Barber will say a prayer to bless the mayor's journey, and join him for the ceremonial first leg on Monday in Belhaven (also on Tuesday in Plymouth, NC, Barber's home town).
O'Neal, who has a history of strong ties to the African American community, has welcomed the support of the North Carolina NAACP, which filed a Title 6 complaint under the U.S. Civil Rights Act earlier this year arguing that the hospital closing would disproportionately impact minorities. The Department of Justice offered mediation, and Vidant Health agreed to a mediated settlement under which the hospital was to be returned to the community. The terms of the settlement were not adhered to, however, the hospital shut its doors, and the NAACP has refiled its federal complaint.
O'Neal plans to petition U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and members of Congress when he arrives in DC. O'Neal believes that hospital corporations are buying and closing rural health facilities to cherry pick patients who are wealthy and/or well-insured while leaving thousands without emergency care. Expanding Medicaid, and embracing a program in the Affordable Care Act called Accountable Care Organizations are two ways to prevent this deadly trend.