Hospital merger made official

Published 12:00 am Monday, April 3, 2006

Sandra Taylor left work Friday after celebrating her 25th anniversary

of working at Obici Hospital.

When she returned to work Monday morning, it was the patient accounting representative’s first day of work at Sentara-Louise Obici Memorial Hospital.

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On Monday, officials from both Obici and Sentara gathered in the hospital’s atrium, along with about 200 employees and guests, to sign the paperwork making Obici’s absorption into the Sentara Health System official.

“I came back to work today with a new hospital name,” Taylor said. “It’s kind of sad, but hopefully it will work out. It still hasn’t sunk in.”

Taylor and the other approximately 1,200 Obici employees have been nervous about what the future holds. That trepidation was acknowledged at Monday’s ceremony by both Obici CEO Rosemary Check and Board Chairman J. Samuel Glasscock.

“I feel confident most of Obici’s staff will be pleased with Sentara,” said Check, who will be relinquishing her CEO post and heading up the local transition team. “We can’t say there won’t be changes at all, but our goal will be to minimize distractions from what should be our number one focus n our patients.”

Check encouraged employees to think of the merger as “an opportunity to grow.”

“Yes, there will be changes,” Glasscock said, “and yes, they may affect some folks, but I’ve got to think it’s an exciting opportunity for you.

“This merger let’s us continue the dream Mr. Obici had.”

Glasscock has served on the hospital board for 40 years, the past 25 as chairman. He will continue on, now serving on the board of the Obici Health Foundation, which is receiving $70 million from Sentara and will focus its efforts on funding health care for the indigent and uninsured.

Former Foundation board member Peter Pruden III and

hospital board member Thomas Woodward will serve as Obici’s representatives on the Sentara board.

While the fates of Obici employees may be hazy, speakers left little doubt that the merger was a good thing for health care in Suffolk.

Glasscock noted that the age of the independent hospital is coming to an end. He said Obici could have continued along as an independent, but because of efficiencies and costs, it never could have accomplished what it could as part of a system.

“Amedeo Obici’s benevolent and community spirit inhabits this place,” Check said. “We could not have chosen a better merger partner. I know Sentara will be sensitive to the history of Obici Hospital.”

Mayor Bobby Ralph noted the event was “something that hasn’t happened in Suffolk for many years: A chance to have improved health care for Suffolk.

“I’m sure Mr. Obici would approve of this merger,” Ralph said.

Glasscock called the merger, “”really a great day in the life of this hospital and the life of this community.”

Representing Sentara among the speakers were John Malbon, vice chairman of the board of directors, and David Bernd, CEO.

“Obici’s a great hospital and a wonderful asset, but let me assure there’s great benefit to the Suffolk people coming from this merger,” Malbon said.