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State Health Commissioner’s Decision Reversed: Chesapeake Regional’s Open-Heart Program Sent Back for Reconsideration

CHESAPEAKE, Va. –  The Supreme Court of Virginia found yesterday that former State Health Commissioner Norman Oliver, who at that time served under the leadership of Governor Ralph Northam, erred in his decision to deny Chesapeake Regional Medical Center’s (CRMC) request to establish an open-heart surgery service in Chesapeake and that the error was not harmless. The Supreme Court of Virginia decision sends the case back to the current Commissioner for new consideration consistent with its opinion.

Virginia law requires CRMC to obtain approval to offer open heart surgery services through Virginia’s Certificate of Public Need program. The COPN law requires a determination of public need based on certain statutory criteria. The Commissioner denied CRMC’s application in August 2018 based on Sentara Healthcare claims. In doing so, the Commissioner’s decision disregarded staff findings and other evidence of public need showing that CRMC’s proposed open heart surgery project would be of high quality, meet current and future access needs, and had the overwhelming support of patients, state and local officials, and area providers.

On appeal, both the designated court in Norfolk and the Virginia Court of Appeals found that the Commissioner erred in how he decided public need for the project. The courts upheld the Commissioner’s decision, claiming that the error was harmless. The Virginia Supreme Court decision today reversed the lower court decisions, recognizing that the Virginia Administrative Process Act requires that the Commissioner reconsider his decision.

“Chesapeake Regional appreciates the Virginia Supreme Court’s decision recognizing the impact of the Commissioner’s error in denying Chesapeake Regional’s project,” says Reese Jackson, President and CEO of Chesapeake Regional Healthcare. “We now have an opportunity to demonstrate the continued public need for this open-heart surgery program, a need that has only grown since the original proposal in 2017. We look forward to the Commissioner’s reconsideration and careful review of our application’s merits and remain committed to bringing this necessary service to persons seeking cardiovascular services at Chesapeake Regional. We appreciate the ongoing support for open heart surgery at CRMC by the City of Chesapeake and its citizens, as well as those we serve in Virginia Beach, North Carolina and the greater region.”

The case goes back to the Commissioner for a new review consistent with the Supreme Court’s direction and based upon the requirements, utilization, and other factors to establish an open heart service. Support of the proposed project is welcome. Questions and comments can be submitted on


About Chesapeake Regional Healthcare
Chesapeake Regional Healthcare is a health system laser focused on innovation, known for making medical history in the region and providing patients with truly personal care. It’s hospital, Chesapeake Regional Medical Center, is the only independent, community-based hospital in Hampton Roads. With a four-star rating from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, the best heart attack survival rates of the major systems in the region, and a nationally accredited Chest Pain Center, Chesapeake Regional’s cardiac program merits further expansion. The system has a state-of-the-art neurointerventional suite, comprehensive cancer care, the most preferred Labor & Delivery program in the area, nearly 40 practice locations and approximately 600 physicians on staff. Chesapeake Regional Healthcare’s technologically advanced health care saves lives every day. Learn more at

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