One Beaufort County commissioner candidate, Jerry Evans, has consistently and single-mindedly promoted himself as a supporter of Beaufort Regional Health Systems' quick merger with University Health Systems. As such, he enjoys the support of those who have an interest in arriving at that outcome: the BRHS medical community, as well as the real-estate community.
The offer from UHS is a 20-year lease arrangement, which would end with UHS taking full ownership of BRHS.
The first time Evans went on record in support of a merger with UHS was at a Sept. 22 candidates forum, sponsored by the Beaufort County Democratic Women. As printed in the Sept. 24 edition of the Washington Daily News, Evans said he arrived at this decision after speaking with members of the medical community.
"I've talked to a lot of people -- nurses, doctors, that's really who I've been talking to," Evans said.
Again, at the Oct. 12 Washington Daily News-sponsored candidates' forum, just hours after the hospital board was briefed for the first time on the extensive offers from the four institutions interested in affiliating with UHS, Evans reinforced his allegiance with the medical system. At the Oct. 27 public hearing, Evans asked the panel of county commissioners and hospital board members board to hearken to the BRHS employees' desire to sell the hospital to UHS, adding that he's "tired of hearing" from people who don't want to give away the hospital.
"Everyone is tired of hearing: 'I'm not going to give this hospital away.' The hospital is broke, it's $18 million in debt, all we hope is that we have enough money left over to make the payroll," said Evans. "The other statement that I'm tired of hearing is that we're going to lose control of our hospital. Yes, when you sell your business, it belongs to someone else."
Democratic candidate for Beaufort County commissioner Jerry Evans speaking at the Oct. 12 Washington Daily News-sponsored candidates forum.
Evans went on to say, at the hearing, that the board members should open their minds to other viewpoints, and should "take politics out of the decision and move on."
Still, however, the political advertisement running in the Washington Daily News, paid for by The Committee to Elect Jerry Evans, has a pretty narrow focus:
"The citizens of Beaufort County have the opportunity to receive world class Health Care...It is time--decisions need to be made today, not tomorrow. I am 100% for a merger between the Beaufort County Hospital (BRHS) and University Health Systems of Eastern Carolina. Elect Jerry Evans County Commissioner."
Similarly, a large and vocal faction of the BRHS medical community has made it very apparent that they will not be satisfied unless the BHRS hospital board and the Beaufort County Board of Commissioners choose to align with UHS, rather than maintaining independence, or pursuing a relationship with one of the other three interested institutions. Several medical professionals have publicly shared this opinion at public hearings held on Aug. 31
and Oct. 27
, and also at an Oct. 19 meeting with the hospital board
. (Click links for videos of the hearings and meeting.)
Some in the medical community have overtly praised Evans for towing their line.
"I'd like to thank Mr. Evans for coming forward and declaring what he intends to do after he gets voted in," said Dr. Thomas Penders at the Oct. 27 public hearing.
The North Carolina Association of Realtors Political Action Committee has contributed $4,556 to Evans' election campaign at the request of the Washington Beaufort County Board of Realtors, according to WBCBR Acting Executive Officer Starlon Credle.
Evans is a Realtor and owner of Century 21 The Realty Group of Washington.
Credle said that the money was given to Evans because he supports "Realtor values." Though she insisted that those "Realtor values" have more to do with preventing the institution of service and land-transfer taxes, than courting the wealthiest members of the community, Credle could not recall another time when WBCBR has recommended that RPAC contribute funds to a local candidate.
Beaufort County commissioner and real-estate business owner Stan Deatherage has penned and championed two resolutions asking the North Carolina General Assembly to not pass an N.C. land-transfer tax, which local N.C. House Representative Zeno Edwards had been vigorously attempting to enact through committee. Furthermore, over his past four terms as commissioner, Deatherage has fought to cut the county budget and keep property taxes low for Beaufort County residents. Even so, the local Realtors refused to endorse Deatherage in 2000, so he could secure RPAC campaign funding, as he ran against Edwards for N.C. House. WBCBR has also withheld endorsements during all of Deatherage's five campaigns for commissioner.