Sentara Healthcare is a not-for-profit healthcare organization serving Virginia and northeastern North Carolina. It is based in Norfolk, Virginia and offers services in 12 acute care hospitals, with 3,739 beds, 853,000 members in its health plan,[1] 10 nursing centers, and three assisted living facilities across the two states. Sentara Healthcare operates its own managed-care plan in Optima Health which covers 450,000 subscribers in the region. It also operates four medical groups.[2]

Sentara Healthcare
HeadquartersNorfolk, Virginia
Areas served
Virginia and North Carolina
Key people
Howard P. Kern (CEO)


Although Sentara Healthcare as a corporation was founded in 1972,[3] its origins date back to 1888.[4] That year, the Norfolk Women's Christian Association founded the 25-bed hospital known as the Retreat for the Sick in Norfolk, Virginia.[5] Ten years after its foundation, the hospital was renamed to the Norfolk Protestant Hospital. In 1936, its name was changed again to the Norfolk General Hospital.[4]

Norfolk General was the site of the region's first successful open-heart surgery in 1967.[6] Another Norfolk hospital called the Sarah Leigh Hospital was founded with 35 beds in 1903 by Dr. Southgate Leigh. At the time, the Leigh Hospital was a state-of-the-art facility built with rounded corners, a fire suppression system, and basic air handling.[7]

Norfolk Protestant Hospital in 1907.

Norfolk General and Sarah Leigh Hospital formed the foundation of Sentara Healthcare in 1972. Indeed, that year,[3] Norfolk General Hospital and Leigh Memorial Hospital merged to form a joint corporation called Medical Center Hospitals.[8] One of the first projects undertaken by the merged entity was the construction of a new Leigh Memorial Hospital.[7] The 250-bed hospital was completed in 1977, relocating from its original home in the Ghent neighborhood to its present location on Kempsville Road.[9] In 1981, Elizabeth Carr, the nation's first baby born using the in vitro fertilization procedure, was delivered at Norfolk General Hospital.[10]

On February 25, 1982, the organization deployed its Nightingale air ambulance for the first time.[11] It was the first hospital-based air ambulance in the state of Virginia.[4] It has successfully completed over 20,000 missions from Sentara Norfolk General Hospital as of 2017.[12] In 1983, the organization's name was changed from Medical Center Hospitals to Alliance Health System.[13] In 1984, it began offering the Optima Health Plan HMO.[14] In 1987, the corporation adopted the name "Sentara Health System" (later "Sentara Healthcare"). The names of its properties were also rebranded, including the two main hospitals, and multiple medical care facilities.[15]

Emergency responders from the McDonald Army Health Center Installation Support Team and Sentara Norfolk General Hospital (Nightingale) during a transport exercise in 2015.

In 1988, Hampton General Hospital joined the system.[16] The following year, doctors at Sentara Norfolk General Hospital performed the region's first successful heart transplant.[17] In 1991, Sentara purchased the Humana Bayside Hospital in Virginia Beach, renaming it Sentara Bayside Hospital.[18] In 1996, Sentara and the Williamsburg Community Hospital entered into a formal partnership which saw Sentara taking a 49% equity stake in the hospital.[19] Sentara eventually took over full ownership of the hospital in 2002, and it later adopted the name, Sentara Williamsburg Regional Medical Center.[20]

In 1998, Sentara merged with Tidewater Health Care, a Virginia Beach-based healthcare system that operated Virginia Beach General Hospital. The organization became known as Sentara Healthcare at that time.[21] Also that year, the Sentara Foundation was created as the charitable arm of the organization, providing grants to other local healthcare entities.[22] In 2000, Sentara Norfolk General Hospital and other Sentara hospitals became the first in the nation to employ "eICU" services in which doctors remotely monitor patients in the ICU.[23] In 2002, the five-story Sentara CarePlex Hospital was completed and replaced the Sentara Hampton General Hospital in Hampton.[24]

Sentara Norfolk General under construction for expansion in 2016.

In 2005, Sentara announced a deal to merge with Obici Health System, which operated Louise Obici Memorial Hospital in Suffolk. That hospital was renamed "Sentara Obici Hospital."[25] The deal was finalized in early 2006.[26] That year,[27] the 300,000 square-foot Sentara Heart Hospital was completed in Norfolk.[17] In 2011, the Sentara Princess Anne Hospital (a joint venture with competing health system, Bon Secours) was opened in Virginia Beach. At that time, the Sentara Bayside Hospital was renamed "Sentara Independence" and became an outpatient campus and nerve center for Sentara IT operations.[28]

Sentara continued adding hospitals to its network in the intervening years, including Potomac Hospital in Woodbridge (2009),[29] Rockingham Memorial Hospital in Harrisonburg (2010),[30] Martha Jefferson Memorial Hospital in Charlottesville (2011),[31] Halifax Regional Hospital in South Boston (2013),[32] and Sentara Albemarle Medical Center in Elizabeth City, North Carolina (2014).[33] In March 2016, David Bernd stepped down as the system's CEO and was replaced by then president and COO, Howard P. Kern.[34] Bernd had served as CEO since 1995 and had been at the company since 1972.[35] Kern has been with Sentara since 1980.[36]

In 2016, Sentara announced a $199 million expansion to its Norfolk General Hospital.[27] In 2018, it announced a $93.5-million cancer center to be built in Norfolk, scheduled to be completed in 2020.[37]

In August 2020, Sentara Healthcare and Greensboro, North Carolina-based Cone Health announced their intent to merge.[38]


As of 2019, the Sentara Healthcare network includes 12 acute care hospitals, 10 nursing centers, and an assisted-living facility.[36] It is Virginia's third-largest employer.[39] It also operates more than 300 sites of care in Virginia and northeastern North Carolina with various outpatient facilities, home and hospice services, and its own health plan called Optima Health.[40] Sentara also owns the Nightingale Regional Air Ambulance, a specialized helicopter equipped with cardiac and pulmonary equipment, like an intra-aortic balloon pump and 12-lead EKG monitor. It has successfully completed over 20,000 missions since its inception in 1982.[12]

List of Sentara hospitalsEdit


  1. ^ "Sentara Healthcare announces plans to acquire Cone Health". Fierce Healthcare. 2020-08-12. Retrieved 2020-08-12.
  2. ^ "Sentara Healthcare names president of medical groups and ambulatory services". Daily Press. 17 January 2019.
  3. ^ a b Schulwolf, Lisa P.; Fehner, Halley L. (17 September 2014). Celebrating the Past, Creating the Future, Improving Health Every Day: Sentara Healthcare Celebrates 125 Anniversary. Convert A Book.
  4. ^ a b c Haile McPhillips, Peggy. "Sentara Norfolk General Hospital". Norfolk Public Library. Retrieved 26 August 2019.
  5. ^ Jeter, Amy (5 March 2010). "DePaul Hospital". The Virginian-Pilot. Retrieved 26 August 2019.
  6. ^ Watts, Maureen P. (26 November 2017). "This week in history | Nov. 26, 2017". The Virginian-Pilot. Retrieved 1 September 2019.
  7. ^ a b Gauding, Dale (July 2015). "New Sentara Leigh Hospital Tower Marks Milestone for Replacement Project". Medical Construction & Design. Retrieved 1 September 2019.
  8. ^ "E. GEORGE MIDDLETON JR". Daily Press. 10 December 2009. Retrieved 21 September 2019.
  9. ^ Hays, Jakon (29 April 2018). "Back in the Day | The Leigh Memorial Hospital in Norfolk". The Virginian-Pilot. Retrieved 9 September 2019.
  10. ^ Jones, Yolanda (30 December 1981). "Test-Tube Baby 'Super'". Daily Press. Retrieved 21 September 2019.
  11. ^ Harris, Stephanie (22 February 2017). "Nightingale celebrates 35 years of rescues this week". WAVY-TV. Retrieved 1 September 2019.
  12. ^ a b Canty, Michele (5 November 2017). "Helicopter ambulance saves lives in region for 35 years". Daily Press. Retrieved 17 September 2019.
  13. ^ Young, Nancy (3 October 2008). "What's in a name? | Sentara". The Virginian-Pilot. Retrieved 17 September 2019.
  14. ^ Pryweller, Joseph (22 November 1987). "HMOs healthy for corporations". Daily Press. Retrieved 1 September 2019.
  15. ^ "Health care foundation is renamed". Daily Press. 14 July 1987. Retrieved 17 September 2019.
  16. ^ Freehling, Alison (29 November 1999). "GROUNDBREAKING TO OPEN LATEST CHAPTER FOR HAMPTON GENERAL". Daily Press. Retrieved 2 October 2019.
  17. ^ a b Freehling, Alison (19 June 2003). "SENTARA PLANS HEART HOSPITAL". Daily Press. Retrieved 2 October 2019.
  18. ^ "Sentara Buys Bayside". Daily Press. 2 August 1991. Retrieved 2 October 2019.
  19. ^ Peck, Jeanne (11 September 1996). "Sentara gets 49% equity in WCH deal". Daily Press. Retrieved 2 October 2019.
  20. ^ Urbanski, Kara (20 April 2002). "Williamsburg's hospital nears shift in control". Daily Press. Retrieved 2 October 2019.
  21. ^ "Healthcare organization is complete". Daily Press. 6 June 1998. Retrieved 2 October 2019.
  22. ^ "ACROSS HAMPTON ROADS - JAMES CITY/SUFFOLK/WILLIAMSBURG/NORFOLK". Daily Press. 28 April 2005. Retrieved 2 October 2019.
  23. ^ Freehling, Alison (2 August 2000). "LONG-DISTANCE CARE". Daily Press. Retrieved 2 October 2019.
  24. ^ Freehling, Alison (15 December 2002). "Sentara moves to new location full of advances". Daily Press. Retrieved 2 October 2019.
  25. ^ Flores, Chris (27 September 2005). "OBICI TO MERGE WITH SENTARA". Daily Press. Retrieved 2 October 2019.
  26. ^ "Sentara and Obici merge". Daily Press. 1 January 2006. Retrieved 2 October 2019.
  27. ^ a b "Sentara Norfolk General Hospital to undergo $199 million expansion-modernization". Daily Press. 23 February 2016. Retrieved 2 October 2019.
  28. ^ Jeter, Amy (4 August 2011). "Newest Sentara hospital opens today in Virginia Beach". The Virginian-Pilot. Retrieved 2 October 2019.
  29. ^ Chufo, Veronica (27 June 2009). "Sentara, Potomac Hospital to merge". Daily Press. Retrieved 2 October 2019.
  30. ^ "Harrisonburg hospital joining Sentara network". Daily Press. 31 July 2010. Retrieved 2 October 2019.
  31. ^ "Charlottesville hospital joins Sentara network". Daily Press. 10 June 2011. Retrieved 2 October 2019.
  32. ^ "Sentara, Halifax Regional celebrate merger". The News Record. 17 July 2013. Retrieved 2 October 2019.
  33. ^ Hampton, Jeff (1 May 2014). "Sentara to change name of Albemarle Hospital". The Virginian-Pilot. Retrieved 2 October 2019.
  34. ^ Castellucci, Maria (4 March 2016). "Howard Kern is new CEO of Sentara Healthcare". Modern Healthcare. Retrieved 2 October 2019.
  35. ^ Simpson, Elizabeth (5 March 2016). "From administrative intern to CEO, David Bernd spent four decades at Sentara". The Virginian-Pilot. Retrieved 2 October 2019.
  36. ^ a b Nichols, Pamela (4 May 2018). "Howard Kern | No. 22". The Virginian-Pilot. Retrieved 17 September 2019.
  37. ^ Boykin, Nick (8 March 2018). "Sentara Healthcare to build $93.5 million cancer center in Norfolk". WTKR. Retrieved 2 October 2019.
  38. ^ Hoban, Rose; August 13, North Carolina Health News; 2020 (2020-08-13). "Sentara Healthcare, Cone Health merger". North Carolina Health News. Retrieved 2020-08-14.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
  39. ^ "Forbes names Sentara among best employers". Suffolk News Herald. 10 May 2018. Retrieved 17 September 2019.
  40. ^ "100 Integrated Health Systems to Know". Becker's Hospital Review. 15 May 2013. Retrieved 17 September 2019.

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