Mayor O'Neal to meet with Virginia's Governor

Media Advisory For: Contact: Don Owens

Tuesday, July 22, 2014  202-302-5928|

GOP Mayor Marching to DC to Save Rural Hospitals Will Meet with Virginia Governor McAuliffe

Mayor-walking-med.jpg(Richmond, VA) On Tuesday, July 22 at 2 p.m., Belhaven, NC, mayor Adam O’Neal (R), will meet with Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe (D) to discuss the need for Medicaid expansion and rural hospitals. Mayor O’Neal and his supporters will have completed 160 miles of their 14-day, 273-mile march to Washington, DC, where they will ask for the assistance of President Obama, the Department of Justice, and members of Congress.

“A ‘non-profit’ corporation that makes over $100 million per year, with $540 million in reserve, wants to cherry-pick the well-insured patients out of our rural community, but they don’t want to let us keep a critical access hospital we’ve had for 60 years because it will create competition,” O’Neal said. “Whether it’s Virginia, North Carolina, or anywhere in America, you tell someone that and they’ll say ‘That ain’t right.’”

Vidant Health, Inc., which enjoys a near monopoly in eastern North Carolina, recently purchased the Pungo District Hospital and closed it down on July 1. A placard next to the sealed emergency room door instructs people to “call 911.”

Thousands of rural North Carolinians were already traveling more than 50 miles to reach Belhaven’s emergency room. Now, they have more than 80 miles to go for emergency care. Mayor O’Neal will carry with him a framed photo of Portia Gibbs, 48, who died on July 7 waiting for an emergency helicopter. The photo was given to him by her 24-year-old son on the first day of the march.  

Governor McAuliffe has been fighting to expand health coverage by accepting Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act, which would insure as many as 400,000 Virginians. McAuliffe has made the argument that forgoing federal dollars which are then spent in other states is killing jobs and endangering rural hospitals. In eastern North Carolina, O’Neal has experienced exactly that.

What:  Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe to meet with Mayor Adam O’Neal, and Save Our Hospital supporters

Who:    Hon. Terry McAuliffe, Governor of Commonwealth of Virginia, Adam O’Neal, Republican, Mayor of Belhaven, NC
             Bob Zellner, legendary Civil Rights activist, former field secretary of SNCC

When:  Tuesday, July 22 at 2 p.m. (ET) 

Where: The Virginia Executive Mansion, Capitol Square Richmond, VA


2:00 Governor McAuliffe and Mayor O'Neal meet at Governor's Mansion, press welcome
2:15 Mayor O'Neal walks with Massey Whorley from Governor's Mansion to Bell Tower
2:20 Jill Hanken, Virginia Poverty Law Center, introduces Mayor
         Remarks by Mayor O'Neal
         Remarks by Rhonda Seltz of the Virginia Rural Health Center
         Media inquiries
3:00 Wrap-up

To interview Mayor Adam O’Neal and/or Bob Zellner please contact the above.  Schedule & media availability updates at



273 miles/90+ hours/14 days

Route to include:

  • Plymouth, NC

  • Ahoskie, NC/Murfreesboro, NC

  • Petersburg, VA

  • Richmond, VA

  • Ashland, VA

  • Fredericksburg, VA

  • Woodbridge, VA

  • Alexandria, VA

  • Washington, DC



O’Neal and others in the Belhaven region believe the hospital was closed in violation of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Three months ago, the Department of Justice had mediated a settlement between Vidant Health and the North Carolina NAACP, but the terms of the settlement were not adhered to and the hospital shut its doors.

O’Neal, passing through Petersberg, VA today, is the only person who has marched every step since embarking from Belhaven on July 14. The person who has walked the second most — 90% of the way — is 75-year-old Civil Rights legend Bob Zellner. Over the weekend dozens of supporters joined the two for stretches as long as 10 miles, including two Belhaven City Council members, one of whom is in his 80’s.

Zellner, who risked his life 50 years ago during Freedom Summer to register African Americans to vote and desegregate public buildings, has found a kindred spirit in Mayor O’Neal. 

“His fight to preserve rural healthcare is in the tradition and in the spirit of the Civil Rights mainstream,” Zellner said. “The mayor has spent a decade fighting for the little people. This is his biggest challenge yet, and to the extent of my strength, I will make sure that he never has to walk alone.”

Do you like this post?

Be the first to comment