Sentara's downgrading of Virginia Beach General Hospital
A tangled tale of hoodwinking the public, corporate favoritism, & conflict of interests

An investigation by Virginia News Source reveals an uncommon corporate coziness between the Virginia Beach City Council and Sentara Healthcare Systems at a time when the medical care cartel is stripping the Virginia Beach General Hospital of vital medical services and the council is sending up fake howls of protest to impress and pacify the public.

One incestuous example of city council's ties to Sentara

A clear example of the Sentara/Virginia Beach City Council's incestuous link is the  ongoing Princess Anne Park Project. 

Last June, council voted to sell a portion of Princess Anne Park to Sentara.  As proposed by Sentara (See: Medical campus proposal), the current Princess Park would be developed as part of Princess Anne Commons and would be Sentara's Princess Anne Health Campus, Sentara's name for an eventual 120 bed Sentara hospital and attendant facilities.  

This use of the park and its sale to Sentara was a concern, because in July 2002 Oberndorf, and  J. Barry Frankenfield, ASLA Design & Development Administrator for the Virginia Beach Department of Parks and Recreation, attended the annual national City Parks forum, in Reno, NV.

Amazingly, also present from Virginia Beach, was Donald Jellig, representing Sentara's interests. 

The three brought with them a common problem, addressed in a slick online presentation, by Frankenfield, Oberndorf, and Jellig.

It is necessary to  explore the city's relationship of Sentara, as personified by Jellig.  Scrolling down you'll read the biographies submitted to the forum by these individuals.  

It can readily be determined that one of Jellig's prime missions for Sentara is to develop new markets and obtain the real estate required to get that job done.

It  should be noted at the time of the forum, Jellig was also a member of  the Hampton Roads Economic Development Alliance (HREDA) (later became chairman), a membership shared with Oberndorf.  

At the time of last summer's forum he was also was a member of the Virginia Beach Development Authority (and is now vice chairman of that group).  In reading its recent report to council, (See: Presentation), it is stated that the Authority's mission is to 'expand the tax base through increased business investment' including public-private partnerships.'  

Jellig's job for his employer, Sentara,  is to develop more markets for his employer's services in a manner which serves the best interests of that employer. As vice-chairman of the VBDA, his job is to get more economic development in the city in a manner which serves the best interests of the cityIn some circles this is known as a conflict of interest.

This apparent conflict should be more than just a passing concern to citizens of the City of Virginia Beach.  The online problem statement presented at the Reno forum, regarding the Princess Anne Park Project, ties together all 3 of these local folks in the first slide.. 

Oberndorf states the problem as:  'Building public support for the sale of a popular 70-acres park site to fund the construction of facilities at a new adjacent park site.'   Slide 8 contains the typical doublespeak: Development will involve relocation of park to preserve park and its activities.. 

By Slide 13, the major issue is: 'Creating public support for project and addressing perception of "favoritism" toward developer.'

The rest of the slide presentation attempts to justify and seek ways to 'build support for the city-Sentara partnership' and make it appear to the public like the politicians are doing a wonderful job representing their interests.  

But Oberndorf, et al,  know the deal smacks of blatant favoritism and conflict of interests.  And they also know  that when the citizens find out the real story, they are not going to be very happy. 

Click here to view the entire slide presentation.

Characters include:

  • Donald Clark, chairman of Sentara's Board of Directors,  whose law firm has made more than $1 million recently representing the city in legal actions,  and who also represents Sentara

  • Donald Jellig, a man of multiple and questionable loyalties as vice president of Sentara Healthcare; president of Sentara Enterprises and MPB, Inc., Sentara's real estate and development subsidiary; chairman of Hampton Roads Economic Development Alliance (HREDA); and vice chairman of the Virginia Beach Development Authority

  • Mayor Meyera Oberndorf, who was on the Virginia Beach General Hospital Board which 'gave away' the city's hospital to Sentara in a merger and whose big interest was building public support when Sentara got the City Council to sell it popular Princess Anne Park for a new health care center campus.

[References to information documenting the conflicting loyalties and relationships are contained in the accompanying box].

The council, with Oberndorf feigning pseudo outrage to cover her role in allowing the current situation to develop,  last week passed a weak resolution of 'protest' presented by Oberndorf, calling for a state investigation - a cowardly government tactic used to buy time hoping public outrage will die down and Oberndorf can dodge the bullet of contributing responsibility for the problem.

Oberndorf and X-vice mayor Will Sessoms, sources told VNS, were the city council's representatives on the local hospital board when it agreed to be acquired by Sentara.  Sources said Sessoms made the merger motion. Now the council feels double-crossed and Oberndorf is trying to cover her sordid past relationship and actions.

The current flap is bureaucratic stupidity of massive proportions.  Apparently, said one source, the council @ Oberndorf and Sessoms' prodding 'gave away the farm' with no enforceable legal means of preventing Sentara's future looting of the beach hospital's resources.  "This is almost as bad as a crime against nature," said one wag.

It appears that city government is so closely allied with Sentara Healthcare, Sentara Enterprises, and MPB, Inc., a Sentara real estate and development subsidiary, that Council is merely raising a smokescreen in hopes that the populace will soon tire of seeking the truth and go away. 

By dumping it in the lap of Governor Warner they have placed themselves in the position of being able to answer all questions with 'Wait for Governor Warner's reply'. 

Hence, like turning Virginia Beach General Hospital  into Sentara Virginia Beach General Hospital, it appears that the current Sentara/Virginia Beach flap is all over but the shouting.

Politicians, corporate interests - 1; Virginia Beach citizens - 0.