Locals unsurprised by merger

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, September 27, 2005

The local medical community isn’t too surprised at Obici Hospital’s decision to merge with Sentara Healthcare.

&uot;It’s not unexpected,&uot; said Dr. Philip R. Thomas, who has practiced medicine in Chuckatuck for nearly six decades. He was affiliated with Obici Hospital for more than 40 years.

&uot;It’s a little sad…because I don’t know what they are going to do with the Obici name,&uot; said Thomas, 84, referring to the Planters Peanut founder Amedeo Obici, who had the hospital built n the early 1950s to honor his late wife, Louise.

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&uot;It’s important that his name be preserved.&uot;

Joining the Sentara family will be good for Obici, one of the few remaining independent hospitals in Hampton Roads, he said.

&uot;I think it will be good for citizens,&uot; said Thomas. &uot;Sentara has a good reputation. Their cardiac outfit is top of line.&uot;

Like Thomas, Betty Brinkley, nursing supervisor at Obici from 1968 to 1995, understands the change.

&uot;It’s kind of a shock, but I’m truly not surprised,&uot; she said. &uot;All the other area’s hospitals have merged because it provides more, better services.&uot;

Although she understands the practical, technological and financial aspects of Monday’s news, Brinkley is still hopeful that the hospital’s rich history will not be lost over time through the merger.

&uot;I guess time is going to tell that,&uot; said Brinkley, who fought several years ago to keep Obici’s nursing school open.

&uot;But the hospital was always really good to us.

I trust this will not have any negative impact on the culture and history of the hospital,&uot; Brinkley said.

Beverly Whitley, who taught with the Practical Nursing School for 30 years until her retirement in 1995, agreed.

&uot;I hate for them to lose their autonomy, but I guess it was about needing to do what is best, and what will be best for the community,&uot; she said. &uot;I certainly hope it will not affect the practicing nursing program that is still running because that’s always helped the hospital.&uot;

Noting an example such as Sentara’s new Heart Hospital, set to open in 2006, Brinkley said the technologies and capabilities Sentara Healthcare offers will now prove vital additions to Obici Hospital and Suffolk.

&uot;I can think of all the services Sentara offers, and that will be good for the city, so I can’t really say anything truly negative about the news,&uot; she said.

Staff writer Allison T. Williams contributed to this story.