Eastern North Carolina hospital has closed its doors

Published 7:18 pm Wednesday, August 9, 2023

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A rural eastern North Carolina hospital has closed its doors, largely the result of what its operators described as a declining surrounding population that was going elsewhere for medical care.

Martin General Hospital in Williamston suspended operations on Thursday and is filing for bankruptcy, according to a hospital news release.

Quorum Health has a lease with Martin County to operate the hospital until 2029, news outlets reported. The hospital, however, has had financial losses of $30 million since 2016, including $13 million in 2022, the news release said.

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Hospital leadership said they had sought a buyer without success, and offered to revert the hospital to the county, which is about 100 miles (161 kilometers) east of Raleigh. Martin County commissioners met behind closed doors earlier this week to discuss the Quorum lease.

The county “chose not to respond to our proposal,” the hospital news release said, leading to the suspension of operations.

County commissioner Joe Ayers said his colleagues are working on a path forward for the hospital.

The closing is “devastating for citizens and the hospital employees. I’m disappointed in Quorum that they shut an important facility down on short notice,” Ayers said.

A health care study found that nearly 80% of county residents were seeking care from providers other than Martin General, the news release said. And the county’s population fell 10% between 2010 and 2020 to 22,000.

The closest emergency room will now be about 20 miles (32 kilometers) away in Washington, Martin General said on its website. Local clinics will stay open.