As a general surgeon employed by the Sentara Medical Group and the current chief of surgery at Sentara RMH Medical Center, I am writing in response to your recent series of articles regarding our community hospital.

My purpose in writing this letter is not to defend Sentara or suggest that recent changes instituted haven’t had an impact on the medical staff. The simple fact is no one, including me, likes to take a pay cut. I am also not going to suggest these changes have always been managed smoothly.

Physicians, nurses and staff have left due to the restructuring of the medical group practices that have involved changes in compensation dictated by the economic reality of today’s medicine. An economic reality that has only been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Despite these “failings,” the situation boiled down to a simple decision for the physicians here to make, like any other employee in any other company; either to move forward and rebuild, or to leave and restart. A personal decision that, once made, should be followed by professional not vindictive behavior. Only printing the words of a few self-indulgent physicians only serves to paint this tainted view.

Have you forgotten that everyone who still works at SRMH both live and work in this community? The patients we care for are our friends, relatives and neighbors. Your paper does a disservice to every member of this medical and hospital staff who remain dedicated to caring for the people of this community when you print that SRMH is no longer “a true community hospital.” Repeating the charge that SRMH doesn’t provide comprehensive services asserts the premise that our dedicated team isn’t adequately able to care for our patients. This is an affront to each and every skilled, committed caregiver at our hospital.

Like many of my colleagues, my personal choice was to stay and maintain, rebuild and expand this hospital and continue to provide comprehensive care for this community. The orthopedics department is actively rebuilding with several outstanding surgeons starting this summer. The urology department is stronger than ever and soon offering robotic procedures.

Next time, the DN-R might consider asking those of us on the front lines if SRMH provides outstanding patient care and has the resources and support to do so.

Ask the ICU nurses working endless hours in PPE keeping our COVID patients alive if they provide “adequate” care. Ask our floor nurses who work selflessly to provide exceptional patient care. Ask the cardiologists and cardiac surgeons who perform state-of-art interventions to save lives or the general surgeons who remove colon cancer. Ask the OBs if they feel less equipped to deliver babies or will soon be able to care for those in need in NICU.

An effort to get their perspective might be useful in obtaining a complete picture of the situation. For our community’s paper to not to ask, and to suggest otherwise, is irresponsible.

Robert Garwood, MD, lives in Harrisonburg.

(13) comments


Having had opportunity to witness first hand the care at RMH the last few days I have to say that I have been impressed with the professionalism and compassion I have seen.

And I'm not one to casually throw out compliments.


An addendum - I've spent the last few days dealing with a relative's treatment of a serious issue at RMH who happens to be a retired nurse - the care she has received has been nothing but stellar.


I think this list is very telling on the priorities of the hospital


The salaries of the execs at Sentara RMH are just as "telling". Sadly, I believe DNR has given up on their expose of RMH, barely scratching the surface of the problems there, which go far beyond slashing physician pay. But that is what Sentara, as an organization, is all about, slash pay on the medical side, blame "conditions", raise pay on the executive side. then laugh in the physician's faces. Sentara employees do care about the patients, no doubt, but the executives could give a fat fuzzy rat's patoot about their employees. 'Corporate' will continue to slash compensation across their hospitals and continue to pay themselves million dollar salaries. Thieves, plain and simple.


As a physician, my opinion is that the changes made by administrators have had a palpable daily negative impact on patient care. Nobody is providing suboptimal patient care with the hand that we are dealt, but if we don't have the resources to provide comprehensive care, it ultimately hurts the patient. Is there truth to the claim that Sentara executives have been receiving increased compensation, whether through bonuses or increased salaries, while cutting what they give to the physicians?


No one disputes the employees at RMH work hard at providing exellent care, the dispute is why their reward for that dedication and hard work is "thank you for your hard work, now take 25% pay cut or leave town." While the executives at RMH and Sentara corporate continue to receive raises and bonuses, physicians had all peformance related bonuses removed from their contracts. So they lost that bonus income in addition to the six figure pay cuts many of them were forced to accept.

Their next contract offer will be for even less than it is now, you can book that solid.

The executives will continue to increase their income, you can book that solid, too.


I’ll bet 40 or so of Dr. Garwood’s former physician colleagues are very disgusted that he would write such a Viewpoint.


Doc, its called 21st Century “journalism.’ Present the side that fits narrative of the social warrio


Dr. Garwood is a fine surgeon. I first met him after waiting 5 agonizing hours in the Emergency? Room with an extremely inflamed gall bladder. Thankfully, Dr. Garwood relieved me of the offending organ but I will never forget the wait!


Psaw. The DN-R printed more than enough of the BS the administration's mouthpieces dished up to defend its position. I don't know a single physician who has anything positive to say about the Sentara administration, and some of the things they do say are far worse than what the DN-R has published.


Mr. Garwood, I believe you have missed the point. No one is attacking the dedicated professionals who now work, or have in the past worked, for Sentara. I think the point is that something is very wrong with the management at Sentara for so many fine doctors, nurses, and other medical professionals to have left. I know many of these folks, and even many of those who continue to work for Sentara are extremely unhappy. Honestly Mr. Garwood, I believe you are attempting to put lipstick on a pig here. The problems at Sentara are indisputable.


While I have not been following the “Sentara” threads too closely, I do not recall reading criticism of the actual medical and support staff. This letter seems more a “disgruntled worker”defense than anything else. I may be wrong.


Wait until the next round of contracts cuts physician pay again.

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