The Walk NC to DC

04/29/15  Portland, Ore.

Rural hospitals are facing the greatest challenge to their existence in the history of our country.

In the next year, 283 rural hospitals face the uncertainty of possible closure. It is time to act. Rural hospitals from all over the country are being asked to send a representative to the June 1st, 2015 walk from Belhaven, North Carolina to Washington DC to petition Congress to pass measures to ensure rural hospitals sustainability.

July 2014 saw the closure of a critical access hospital in Belhaven, North Carolina. After the closure, everyone seemed to think all hope was lost for the healthcare and the economic future in this town. With the assistance of Reverend William Barber, President of North Carolina NAACP and Al McSurely, Civic Rights Attorney, a walk to Washington, DC began. National media covered the walk, and a White House sponsored meeting with key people in Washington started the process of reopening the hospital. This walk was solely responsible for keeping hope alive in that small town.

Now it is time for America to stand up and demand that Washington DC work on the rural hospital crisis. The rural hospitals are just as important as any urban medical centers. Rural feeds America and deserves to keep our current level of healthcare. When hospitals close, emergency rooms close and that means needless deaths — children, family members and neighbors. We have to stand up, and The Walk will get Washington’s and the nation's attention.

The Walk starts a national debate about the condition of rural hospitals today. Horrific damage is done to communities who lose a hospital. The potential closure in 2015 of 283 hospitals means 36,000 lost healthcare jobs, 50,000 community jobs lost, 10.6 billion in lost GDP in rural areas. Also, if you have just 10 needless deaths per closed hospital per year that means 2830 needless deaths of Americans each year. This would be equivalent to a 9/11 attack happening year after year.

This is an issue we all agree on regardless of party or politics. Let’s show Washington how we the people can cross party lines and work on this most important issue. Let’s set an example that Washington can follow now and in the future. Reverend Barber and Mayor O'Neal have become symbols of the power that is generated when health care for poor people becomes a national moral issue.

Adam O'Neal, Mayor, Belhaven, NC
Dr. Charles Boyette, 2003 National Country Doctor of the Year
Bob Zellner, Civic Rights Activist