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Sentara Healthcare, Cone Health End Affiliation Plans

Analysis  |  By Melanie Blackman  
   June 03, 2021

The regional health systems mutually decided the best approach to supporting their respective communities was by remaining independent.

Sentara Healthcare and Cone Health announced Wednesday afternoon that their affiliation plans have ended. The regional health systems mutually decided the best approach to supporting their respective communities was by remaining independent.

The announcement comes a few months after the public was asked to weigh in on the merger, which was first announced in August 2020, when Sentara, based in Norfolk, Virginia, and Cone, based in Greensboro, North Carolina, signed a letter of intent.

In March, North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein asked residents to voice their opinions on the proposed merger, and in April, the North Carolina Department of Justice extended the deadline for two additional weeks.

"Recently, in the final analysis, we mutually decided that we can best serve our communities by remaining independent organizations," Terry Akin, CEO of Cone, said in a statement. "We have developed a high regard for the excellent services and outcomes Sentara delivers, and we expect both our organizations to continue to advance our common goals of providing outstanding care for our respective communities."

Additionally, Howard P. Kern, CEO of Sentara, said in a statement that both systems are “high performing, well respected, community-focused organizations.”

“Those similarities served as the basis for efforts toward an affiliation,” he added. “I am confident that this mutual decision will not alter either organization’s ongoing commitment to meet the needs of our respective communities."

In an interview with HealthLeaders in August, Kern said that during a board retreat, he and Akin shared their ideas, and it became clear the two organizations were aligned on vision, strategy, and direction, including a shared vision on value-based care. That's when formal discussions about a merger began.

HealthLeaders reached out to Cone Health about the two organizations' future plans to collaborate, but no further statements were given.

Earlier this year, Akin and Jeff Jones, CFO of Cone, announced their departures once the health system merger was complete. On Thursday, Cone Health announced that Akin will be stepping down as planned. Mary Jo Cagle, MD will assume the role of CEO on June 15, becoming the first woman and physician to lead the Cone Health Network.

Editor's note: This story has been updated.

Melanie Blackman is the strategy editor at HealthLeaders, an HCPro brand.

Photo credit: Norfolk, Virginia, USA-April13,2020: Sentara Norfolk General Hospital, In front of hospital building on epidemic time. / Editorial credit: T.Chookiat /

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