Earlier today, Belhaven Mayor Adam O’Neal of Beaufort County delivered some passionate remarks in the Legislature’s presser on how North Carolina’s Certificate of Need program – a regulatory regime that approves or denies providers wanting to update or expand health care infrastructure – undermines rural health care:

The truth is the CON process is broken. I know the big hospitals have said that rural areas need CON to keep rural county hospitals open. You know the story of what happened in Belhaven. Our hospital was struggling. A community-organized board decided the best step was to hand it over to VIdant Healthcare – the big hospital system in Greenville. We thought they would put a handle on the facility appropriately and keep it open to serve patients in the Belhaven area.

We were wrong. Vidant closed our hospital and shifted those services to the hospital they run in Washington – 35 miles away. Since then, we have had several instances of emergency situations where people have died because of the added distance to reach an emergency facility.

We had a community in Belhaven that was willing to find the money and take the chance of reopening the facility on our own. We addressed the problem and found funding to reopen our hospital facility. All along, our lawyers were telling us to not worry about Certificate of Need regulations since we were an existing facility. Everything was going well, and we were encouraged that we would be able to reopen our hospital.

Then we ran into a roadblock. The state regulators for CON said we couldn’t reopen the hospital because regulations said it had to be currently operating to get approved.

That’s where we are today. And unless the House and Senate find a way to reform our state’s Certificate of Need laws, a government bureaucrat has the power to keep us from reopening our hospital.

That’s wrong. And I’m going to keep fighting until somebody listens and does something about this travesty for our state.

I am encouraged that CON reform has a good chance of passing the General Assembly this session and know that rural communities all across the state better wake up and support this bill for the same reasons. The big hospital systems are using the same regulations they say are helping rural communities to keep new facilities from being created in areas that need accessible, quality healthcare. 

The law has great intentions of ensuring access to care where needed across the state, but you can read more here why CON should instead be considered a market failure.