Sentara cuts ribbon on outpatient center

Published 10:35 pm Friday, March 29, 2019

Sentara Healthcare on Thursday unveiled a $33.5 million, 100,000-plus square-foot expansion and renovation of its BelleHarbour campus outpatient medical center serving the growing North Suffolk area of the city.

The expansion at Sentara BelleHarbour off of Bridge Road is 92,000 square feet, and the renovation of the existing space about 10,000 square feet. Sentara BelleHarbour is operationally part of Sentara Obici Hospital, which used to be known as Louise Obici Memorial Hospital, which has been serving Suffolk and Western Tidewater since 1951 when Planters Peanuts founder Amedeo Obici endowed it in the memory of his late wife Louise. Obici Hospital merged with Sentara in 2006.

The addition to the BelleHarbour campus includes an ambulatory surgery center, new observation beds for overnight stays, and an expanded 24-hour emergency department. There is also a new helipad for Nightingale, as well as new office spaces for medical practices.

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“These campuses are more the wave of the future,” said Terrie Edwards, Sentara Healthcare Corporate Vice President. “Instead of everyone coming to one location, we bring the location to the patients and to the people.”

The center’s emergency department has expanded from 17 to 22 treatment spaces, and it added a vertical care unit, for fast-track cases, in the renovated area. In the addition, there are two licensed operating rooms, an ambulatory surgery center and a 14-bed observation unit in the new expansion that supports the emergency department and allows for cardiac observation or extended stays for up to 23 hours for pain management.

“We’re able to provide more acute services than historically has been able to be provided in this area,” said Meredith Moorefield, Sentara Healthcare operations manager. “But at the same time, our proximity to your Norfolk General, to CarePlex, to Obici, really makes this kind of an access portal to Sentara for broader services. Or, (for) someone comes in and they need more acute services, it’s a great way to get here, get the care that they need and then we get them to the right location.”

Sentara also operates Norfolk General Hospital, CarePlex Hospital in Hampton and Obici Hospital off of Godwin Boulevard.

Currently, the BelleHarbour campus serves around 30,000 patients yearly in its emergency department, and it also has specialists to include family medicine, cardiology, podiatry, neurology, vascular and general surgery, physical therapy and an advanced imaging center.

Moorefield said population growth, along with the rise in sicker patients, provided the need for the updated medical center.

Dr. Steve Julian, president of Sentara Obici Hospital, said city officials gave Sentara an idea of the growth that is to come to North Suffolk as it planned its BelleHarbour campus. Sentara also put out a trio of telephone surveys showing a demand for the company’s services.

“We had some inside information, quite frankly, from the city, and they showed us about five years ago all of the housing planned for here,” Julian said.

Julian said the campus has room to grow and most likely will.

“I think that the future is the following — everything is moving toward outpatient if it will be safe to do,” Julian said. “And this is the most robust outpatient facility of all of Sentara. So, we’re well positioned to provide all of the outpatient care that anybody could possibly need.”

The next step, Julian said, would be to bring a micro-hospital to this site, which was built hospital ready. The new addition has two additional floors shelled in — 20,000 square feet on each floor, to put 20 hospital beds on each floor.

As part of Sentara’s master facilities plan, Julian said there could be another four-story building on the campus that would have 24 beds per story.

Julian said that within two to three years, he expects to get a Certificate of Public Need from the Virginia Department of Health for the additional hospital beds.

“We’ll have them here, and a patient can come here for one stop and be hospitalized for appropriate things,” Julian said.
For things like pneumonia, diabetes management and congestive heart failure, Julian said people would do well at the BelleHarbour campus.

“Patients can get their care closer to home, not have to go through the bridges and tunnels and that’s what people really want,” Julian said. “So I think it’s putting people in the right place at the right time with the right level of care.”

Sentara did present a Certificate of Public Need application for a new hospital at Sentara BelleHarbour, Julian said in a November 2018 letter posted to the company’s website. However, staff at the Virginia Department of Health recommended approval of an application from Bon Secours Mercy for a hospital on its Harbour View campus, and a denial of Sentara’s application. VDH approved Bon Secours’ certificate of public need in December.
“For a variety of reasons, we will not pursue additional options to win approval of our application at this time,” Julian wrote in the letter. “An opportunity to develop a hospital may arise in the future and we will take appropriate action at that time.”

On Thursday, Sentara and local officials on hand for the ribbon cutting were pleased with the expanded facility.

“It’s going to get a workout,” said Councilman Roger Fawcett, “not because we want sick people to show up here, but if they do, we want to make them better and get them back on their feet, and get them back in their environment.”

Sam Glasscock, who served on the Louise Obici Memorial Hospital Board of Directors from 1966 until the hospital merged with Sentara Healthcare in 2006, also served as chairman for 25 of those years. He liked what he saw of the BelleHarbour campus.

“I’m impressed,” Glasscock said. “It’s well-done, and it’s well-managed. There’s a lot of intangibles that you can’t really see.”