North Carolina Business Coalition on Health

Martin General Hospital in Eastern NC Closes, Files for Bankruptcy

As published in Daily Reflector:

Martin County loses hospital with closure of Martin General

John Foley, Staff Writer, Daily Reflector

August 3, 2023

WILLIAMSTON, NC — Tennessee-based Quorum Health announced Thursday that Martin General Hospital is no longer accepting patients and the hospital has filed for bankruptcy.

The facility that has served Martin County families for generations has struggled financially, the company said. It closed its intensive care unit and its maternity ward in 2022. The hospital was once county-owned and operated, but the county now leases it to Quorum.

A statement on the hospital’s website blamed the financial challenges on “declining population and utilization trends.”

“To be certain, these difficult decisions do not do justice to the hard work and dedication of the Martin General Hospital employees, nurses, physicians, volunteers, and board members,” Quorum’s statement said. “Their legacy of commitment to the community will endure in the countless lives they have touched over the years.”

Martin County officials have worked unsuccessfully with hospital officials to keep the doors open. Martin County Manager James Bennett expressed disappointment on Thursday.

“Yes, the hospital is closed to the public,” he said. “Quorum notified us they are closing Martin General and suspending operations. We are very concerned and disappointed and are reviewing options for the future.”

Bennett and the Martin County Commissioners held a closed session meeting Monday evening to discuss the hospital’s situation, however, there was no resolution to a problem that has long lingered on the commissioner’s agenda. The hospital dilemma has been a topic of discussion for months.

“We provided the commission with a proposal to revert the hospital back to Martin County, incorporated their requested clarifications and requested changes, and gave them an extension of time to consider our proposal at a called meeting on Aug. 1,” a statement issued by hospital officials said.

The hospital claims the county chose not to respond to their proposal forcing Thursday’s actions. The hospital said it had worked diligently with the county to find a buyer and new operator, but those efforts stalled.

The lease with Quorum is set to expire in 2028. According to the hospital’s statement, Martin General Hospital experience $13 million in losses last year. According to a county feasibility study, nearly 80 percent of Martin County residents were seeking health care providers outside Martin General, according to the statement.

ECU Health hospitals located in Greenville, Tarboro, Windsor and Washington, N.C., surround Williamston. The hospitals are 15-30 miles from Williamston.

“ECU Health is aware that Martin General Hospital is ceasing clinical operations and diverting patients to other local hospitals as needed,” said Brian Wudkwych, ECU Health public relations manager. “ECU Health leadership is coordinating with Martin General Hospital and local EMS to ensure patients have access to necessary and high-quality care. As always, ECU Health hospitals across the region are prepared to serve the community.”

Maryann Thompson and her mother were leaving the hospital Thursday morning, through the back door.

“My mother was in the hospital last week and had to come this morning for a follow-up visit. Everything is fine, but this is really sad. I hope the clinics stay open and they can find a solution,” said Thompson.

The hospital website said the following clinics remain open: Roanoke Clinics, Martin Family Medicine, Roanoke Orthopedics, Roanoke Specialty Services, Williamson Heart & Vascular, Roanoke Surgical, with some of the clinics changing locations. It referred emergency patients to the ECH Health facility in Washington, N.C.

The hospital’s closing has an impact on past and future patients while also impacting the county. Often health care is the first topic addresses when people and companies look to relocate.

“This is a major problem across the country,” said Martin County Economic Development Director Steve Biggs. “I’m one of those guys who believe the Rural Emergency Health bill will help solve this problem. The bill is currently in the legislature and, once it is passed, we can begin recruiting operators.”

The Rural Emergency Health designation allows enhanced Medicare payments for certain outpatient services and additional monthly payments.

U.S. Rep. Don Davis, whose 1st Congressional District includes Martin County, said he was “deeply saddened by the hospital’s closure.”

“This only underscores the critical need for accessible health care in eastern North Carolina,” Davis said. “With today’s announcement, I’ve been engaging with local, state, and health care officials to assist and find viable solutions. Access to quality health care is paramount, and I am fully committed to fighting for the support and resources eastern North Carolinians deserve.”