EMS officials in an eastern North Carolina county will have to expand their services as another rural hospital shuts down.
The Vidant Pungo Hospital in the town of Belhaven will be closed by next spring. The facility is in Beaufort County, but it's the closest hospital for residents of neighboring Hyde County, which has about 6,000 people.
Hyde County EMS director Justin Gibbs says the next closest facilities with emergency services are about 30 miles farther away.
"We're going to have to look at rewriting our system plan," Gibbs says.
"We're looking at dividing our county into halves, basically. One half would be transported to Outer Banks Hospital in Nags Head and the other half would be transported to Beaufort County hospital in Washington."
Gibbs says ambulance rides for some residents will be more than an hour long. The county will likely use more airlift services for people who need immediate and serious attention.
Vidant Health says it's giving a grant to Hyde County of up to $250,000 for another ambulance. The organization says it's closing the hospital due to maintenance issues and shrinking revenue. It's spending $4 million on new offices in Belhaven that will provide urgent care, but not emergency services.