After 5-year fight, Chesapeake hospital approved for new heart surgery center

A five-year effort by Chesapeake Regional Medical Center paid off on Monday.

The state approved a certificate of public need proposal for a new open-heart surgery center at the 310-bed medical center on Battlefield Boulevard. The facility is aiming to start providing procedures in the space by early next year.

“It’s been five years, three applications, two staff recommendations and one Virginia Supreme Court decision, thousands of letters of support. And today, the Commonwealth health commissioner gave us the nod,” Reese Jackson, president and CEO of Chesapeake Regional, said after a public news conference with comments from doctors and other system leaders.

Chesapeake Regional anticipates to perform 150 surgeries in the center next year. Hiring and equipment installation is under way, Jackson said.

Chesapeake Regional’s application, approved by current Virginia Department of Health commissioner Colin Greene, included projections that Chesapeake will reach almost 275,000 residents in the next seven years, along with large growth in the elderly population.

“This population is also significant in the 65+ age range, a group which is expected to grow by 42.5% by 2030,” Chesapeake’s application said. “This will undoubtedly lead to greater demand for open and closed heart surgery services due to the increased rates of adverse cardiac events in this age group.”

In November, health department staff supported Chesapeake Regional’s most recent application.

“I want to emphasize this has been a team effort,” Kristi Wooten, chair of the Chesapeake Hospital Authority Board, said Monday at the news conference.

The Chesapeake health system first embarked to try for the open-heart surgery facility half a decade ago and even had to be ruled on by the state Supreme Court.

In May, the Supreme Court ruled a former state health commissioner was wrong for denying the system’s application to create the open-heart clinic. Chesapeake Regional completed its most recent application in July.

The commonwealth’s certificate of public need system was established in 1973 by a federal mandate and requires health systems and providers to prove the community needs the proposed services, according to the Medical Society of Virginia. The federal mandate was dropped 13 years later, but the commonwealth has kept the system.

Though Sentara remained neutral in the second review process, the two health systems’ disagreements reverberated into the General Assembly in 2019, where legislation involved in the disagreement was eventually killed.

Chesapeake Regional’s original request for the open-heart surgery program and facility was recommended for approval by the Virginia Department of Health Division of Certificate of Public Need with a condition for the facility to provide charity care, according to court documents.

Several months later, Sentara Healthcare filed a petition for an informal fact-finding conference and to be added as part of the review, according to court documents.

Health department staff submitted a recommendation to deny Chesapeake Regional’s request in April 2018. That August, then-commissioner M. Norman Oliver agreed.

Ian Munro,, 757-776-7604