Sentara24-hours Before Sentara Called Off the Merger, the $6 Billion Conglomerate Pledged $40 Million to Address “Health Disparities”

Sentara Healthcare this morning called off its troubled $11.5 billion merger with Cone Health of North Carolina. According to statement on the Sentara website:

“[W]e realized that each of our communities and key stakeholders require support and commitments from our respective organizations that are better served by remaining independent. The decision was a difficult one.”

On May 26, we sent an email to Sentara spokesperson Danya Bushey labeled “Question for Howard Kern.”

“Given the revelations about immunization disparities in the Hampton Roads area revealed in today’s Virginian-Pilot, in hindsight, does Mr. Kern have regrets about Sentara’s aggressive lobbying to block DePaul Hospital’s efforts to streamline its operations and stay in business?”

Reverberations from the Closure of DePaul Charity Hospital 

The question referred to our investigative story, published on April 14th, Norfolk’s Historic DePaul Hospital’s Efforts to Survive Were Stymied By Sentara Healthcare. The story was further buttressed by an interview we conducted with a Norfolk nurse who decried Sentara’s treatment of the poor.

Neither Kern nor Bushey replied directly to our inquiry. But on Tuesday — the day before the news about the cancelled merger was made public — a pledge was posted to Sentara’s website:

“Sentara Healthcare today announced a $40 million investment to expand the Sentara Healthier Communities Fund across the communities we serve in the Commonwealth of Virginia and Northeast North Carolina to further address health disparities magnified by the impact of COVID-19 on underserved populations. Earlier this year, Sentara announced an initial $10 million community investment, called the Sentara Healthier Communities Fund, to address health disparities and bolster regional health sciences programs.”

Virginia Media’s Decisions to Ignore 

Sentara’s decision to call off the $11.5 billion merger comes in the wake of a seven-month investigation by Checks and Balances Project — a small investigative watchdog blog. It also came about despite the willful decisions by Virginia media not to follow up on the leads we provided them.

With a cancelled merger, a fresh commitment to addressing public health disparities, and a major hire out of the Northam Administration, big things are afoot at Sentara Healthcare. But at this point, all that can be safely said is that the plot of this story is thickening.

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Scott Peterson is executive director of Checks and Balances Project, an investigative watchdog blog holding government officials, lobbyists, and corporate management accountable to the public. Funding for C&BP is provided by Renew American Prosperity and individual donors.


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