Cone Health plans to merge with larger, Norfolk, Virginia-based Sentara Healthcare, both organizations announced Wednesday.
According to Sentara, a not-for-profit system, it now operates 12 hospitals with 1,200 physicians and 30,000 employees. In addition to the hospitals and medical facilities in its home base of Norfolk and the Chesapeake Bay area, Sentara owns and operates medical facilities in Charlottesville, Harrisonburg, Williamsburg, and Hampton Roads, all in Virginia.
A somewhat smaller system, Cone, also a not-for-profit system, operates five hospitals, including Alamance Regional Medical Center in Burlington; has 1,200 physicians, and 13,000 employees.
The incorporation of Cone into its system marks Sentara’s second foray into North Carolina; the company operates the Sentara Albemarle Medical Center in Elizabeth City in northeastern North Carolina as well as several physician offices in nearby towns in that area of the state. Cone officials emphasized their continuing role as a partner in one of the divisions of the larger organization.
Cone Health representatives will join the Sentara Healthcare board, with membership on all board committees and meaningful roles in all aspects of governance, according to both companies’ announcement of the merger. The companies also said there will continue to be a Cone Health Regional Board that will be composed of community members, medical staff, and Sentara representation.
“As two of the top-performing health systems in the United States, Cone Health and Sentara Healthcare share similar missions, strategies and cultures,” says F.D. Hornaday, chairman of the Cone Health board of trustees. “This planned merger positions our organizations to address more effectively the toughest challenges facing health care systems: increasing access and affordability.” Cone Health’s board voted unanimously to sign a letter of intent to proceed with the merger.
“Cone Health is among the highest-quality health care organizations in the nation, and we are financially strong. With the right partner, we can build on what we’ve created and do even more for those we are privileged to serve,” says Terry Akin, CEO, Cone Health. “We have long said that Cone Health doesn’t intend to grow simply for the sake of growth. Instead, we are partnering for inspiring possibilities.”
Howard Kern, president and CEO of Sentara Healthcare, will lead the consolidated company from its Norfolk headquarters. Cone Health CEO Terry Akin will remain in Greensboro as president of the new Cone Health division within Sentara.
The merger is subject to state and federal review and customary closing conditions, according to the companies. It should be formalized by mid-2021, both companies said. It is expected to take up to two years to fully combine and integrate the organizations, the companies projected. In the meantime, both organizations and their leadership teams will operate as usual, Sentara says.