There is a Process

    Publisher's Note: Over the last 16 years, 14 of which I have served as a Beaufort County Commissioner, I have sat through hundreds of public hearings. On this past Wednesday night, October 27, 2010, a public hearing was held, in Building 10 at the Beaufort County Community College, to hear from the public their thoughts concerning the ossible merger partners with the Beaufort Regional Medical Regional Center. This public hearing was possibly the most coordinated one-sided statement from the public that I have I ever witnessed.

    That coordinated "Group-Think" maxim was to immediately merge with UHS (University Health Systems), completely irrespective of the bid process initiated by the Hospital Commissioners as required by general statute. Among those who spoke to that effect, at varying degrees, a lone wee voice rose from the crowd to speak in opposition of the "Group-Think" manifesto. Her name is Velma Hickman.

    Mrs. Hickman, who is nearly 5 feet tall on her best days, stood tall like David against the Goliath of "Group-Think," and spoke in favor of the process, which is well manifested by her text here below in her correspondence with me. When asked what possessed her to speak against the proverbial current of popular opinion as exhibited by the over 250 people in that meeting hall, she simply stated, "I thought it was important to defend the process, which was designed to protect the taxpaying citizen. I just figured that you, sitting before us on the dais, needed a bit of help."

    Thank-you Mrs. Hickman for the help, but moreover, thank-you for showing a measure of courage in stating the obvious truth, when the truth about adhering to a process was so distinctly in short supply.

    There is a Process

    As I have followed the media and observed hearings about the dilemma of the Beaufort County Medical complex, it is apparent to me that is a legal procedure which must be followed to reach a decision about the fate of our hospital. In fact, there is a NC General Statute that requires such a process which is being worked through now: public hearings, Requests for Proposals from health care institutions, and negotiations with these entities within the specified time lines. After these aspects of the statute are met the hospital board will make a recommendation to the county commissioners which can be acceptance of one or none of the proposals. The present hospital board is executing a dual process by following the requirements of the law while the hospital continues to provide services. Actually, early on, as the plan was initiated Beaufort County, with Board of Commission approval, purchased other properties owned by the hospital for approximately $4million to assist the hospital to continue to function as the leadership attempts to cut costs and seek means of increasing revenue.

    No one had the authority to transfer the hospital to anyone earlier and no one has the authority at this time. It appears that some candidates for offices do not understand this situation just as some hospital personnel, including doctors, nurses, and auxiliary staff, and the public in general do not. They want "a merger with UHS right now!" Since this process is required by law, we need to let it work.

    Yes, mistakes have been made. But the most damaging ones were made before the present hospital board began its work to try to dig our hospital out of a deep hole of neglect. It's really hard for me to believe that no one knew enough 2 years ago (or even one year) to tell the Board of Commissioners. This problem did not arise overnight.

    I want our hospital to become solvent and remain ours! We do not have to be owned by another entity in order to work with that entity. We've been doing that for years.

Velma Hickman
109 Captains Walk Road
Blounts Creek, NC

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