Obici’s legacy lives

Published 9:18 pm Thursday, September 22, 2011

Sentara Obici Hospital employees will celebrate the 60th anniversary of the hospital’s founding today.

Even 64 years after his death, Amedeo Obici’s legacy lives on.

Part of that legacy, Sentara Obici Hospital, celebrates its 60th anniversary this week. Staff and volunteers will celebrate today with a luncheon.

“I think if Amedeo Obici were alive today, he would be impressed with how his legacy has lived on,” said Phyllis Stoneburner, vice president for patient care services at the hospital. “His vision has touched so many lives.”

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The hospital was dedicated on Sept. 17, 1951, about four years after Obici died. It started admitting patients Sept. 24.

Sentara Obici Hospital administrators Kurt Hofelich, left, vice president and administrator, and Phyllis Stoneburner, vice president for patient care services, stand with a mural of Amedeo Obici, for whom the hospital is named. The hospital celebrates its 60th anniversary this week.

Obici left money to build the hospital in honor of his wife, Louise, who had died in 1938.

Current administrators believe Obici would be pleased with how his vision has grown into a multi-faceted facility with influence that extends throughout the city and beyond its borders.

“As the community has grown, the hospital has extended out to other communities,” said Kurt Hofelich, vice president and administrator of Sentara Obici. Freestanding emergency rooms in North Suffolk and Carrollton operate under Obici’s license.

The hospital also has taken advantage of advancing medical technology.

“When I got started in nursing, you stayed in the hospital for seven days for cataract surgery,” Stoneburner said. “Now you’re in the hospital less than two hours. Radiation oncology was probably just a gleam in somebody’s eye when this hospital opened.”

“Who would have thought back when this hospital opened that we would be able to replace a heart valve through a catheter?” Hofelich said. “Those are innovations. Amedeo was an innovator.”

Obici’s legacy of caring about his employees and the community at large also lives on at the hospital that bears his name, administrators said.

“We have that same spirit about our people who work with us and for us,” Stoneburner said. “That patient and staff commitment continues.”

Caring for the community continues through the establishment of the Obici Healthcare Foundation. It was founded with proceeds from the sale of the hospital to Sentara.

“Mr. Obici was always concerned about the health of his workers, the people in the community and especially those who were less fortunate,” said Gina Pitrone, executive director of the foundation.

“The foundation focuses on providing health care improvements for the community, as well as looking at prevention of disease and chronic disease. That’s how the legacy lives on.”

To ensure the Obicis’ memory stays alive at the hospital, their bodies are interred there — behind a wall in the Heritage Garden, near the hospital cafeteria. The bodies are directly under the chapel. A nearby exhibit teaches visitors about the Obicis and the history of the hospital bearing their name.

These days, the hospital also is a big selling point for the area, Hofelich said.

“I think it makes the area much more successful in bringing in all the employers,” Hofelich said. “It makes settling in Isle of Wight comfortable. It makes settling in North Suffolk comfortable, because you know you have access to health care.”

As the hospital moves into the future, Hofelich and Stoneburner see plenty more innovations to come.

“We are just now recognizing the value of the electronic medical record,” Hofelich said. He added that ambulatory care will continue to evolve as the health care system works to free up capacity for the aging Baby Boomers.

“There will be more focus on preventive care,” Stoneburner said. “Our whole goal is to keep more patients at home.”

Obici Hospital: Then and Now

Then             Now

  • Cost of construction  $3M for 117 beds  $148M for 168 beds
  • Operating expenses/year  $600,000     $137 million
  • Emergency room visits/year 2,301          70,000
  • Inpatient admissions        3,700               9,000
  • Average length of stay     7.6 days            4.1 days
  • Baby deliveries                  542                    1,300
  • Employees                         157                     1,040
  • Medical staff                     58                       368