Demolition has begun on the former Pungo District Hospital in Belhaven, after Superior Court Judge Gregory McGuire denied a request to prevent the destruction.
The non-profit health system Vidant Health bought the building in 2011 and transferred it to the control of the Pantego Creek Board, which closed the hospital in 2014. Vidant opened a new medical center without an emergency room nearby.
Belhaven Mayor Adam O'Neal, who had led the charge to buy back the hospital building and reopen it, said Vidant and Pantego lied about the hospital's costs and damages, and said judges and politicians looked the other way.
"This is a hell of a movie of how corrupt our country is," O'Neal said. "We've got a hospital that could be reopened, and we've got two non-profits that conspired to tear it down. We did the things we were supposed to do. And there's no law. And the reason there's no law is because of the influence of money, power."
In court documents, Pantego and Vidant said the Pungo Hospital was in poor condition and cost too much to operate. Pantego Creek's lawyer Arey Grady declined to comment, referring to court decisions earlier this year that dismissed all fraud allegations.
Mayor O'Neal said the case was moved around to judges who favored Vidant, which hired lobbyists in Washington, D.C. And he said Governor Pat McCrory and U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch ignored the community, even though the nearest emergency room is now 30 miles away.
"So you've got poor people trying to nurse themselves instead of going to the doctor. You've got a horrific situation here," said O'Neal. "And frankly, frankly, nobody in power really cares. And that's a sad commentary on our state and our nation today."