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Law enforcement wants Pender Memorial to hire private security

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BURGAW, NC (WWAY) -- They provide vital services to the citizens of Pender County, but budget issues may keep law enforcement from continuing to help Pender County's only hospital.

As the county's only healthcare provider, Pender Memorial Hospital offers a wide variety of services.

"We have a full service emergency department here in Pender County, and obviously as a result of that, from time to time we will get mental health patients in our emergency room," PMH president Ruth Glaser said.

When a mental health patient checks in, the hospital has to lean on area law enforcement to help maintain safety.

"We can call them if we have needs," Glaser said. "They make rounds routinely through here. They're very busy and very good for us and are, again, a very good resource to our hospital."

Due to budget concerns, the Pender County Sheriff's Office and the Burgaw Police Department have insisted that Pender Memorial Hospital hire its own private security force to assist with mental health calls. However, hospital officials say that's simply not an option.

"I think on a day-to-day basis there's not necessarily something going on all of the time that would keep somebody busy," Glaser said. "Certainly if you are a police officer or a sheriff's deputy you know that trouble could potentially just be a matter of time away."

The law enforcement agencies say the service they provide the hospital impacts their staffing and also their bottom line keeping officers off the streets and on overtime.

Both the Pender County Sheriff's Office and Burgaw Police Department declined interviews for this story, but Burgaw Police Chief Bill King says he is working on sitting down with the hospital to resolve the issue.

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