Central Carolina Hospital CEO Spencer Thomas is leaving Sanford for a job in his former home state of Virginia, he announced Monday.

Thomas will be returning to Sovah Health, an organization that oversees two hospitals in Virginia, one in Danville and one in Martinsville. Before becoming CEO of Central Carolina Hospital in 2017, Thomas worked as the chief operating officer for the Danville hospital and “was instrumental in the successful formation of Sovah Health,” a news release stated.

Thomas will now become the CEO of Sovah Health — Martinsville, a 220-bed acute care hospital.

Thomas said he “wasn’t necessarily looking for a different opportunity,” but when one came up to return to Virginia, he was interested.

“I’ve spent the majority of my life in Virginia,” Thomas said. “It’s an opportunity to go back to a part of the country that we love. I got to see it (the Sovah Health system) from the Danville side and it’s exciting to go back and work with the Martinsville team.”

Thomas will stay on at Central Carolina Hospital until a replacement CEO is found, he said. The date of Thomas’ departure isn’t firm, but he expects the handover to occur sometime in August.

“We don’t want to have interim leadership here,” he said. “We want to make sure we have a nice smooth transition.”

Central Carolina Hospital, like healthcare facilities across the country, has been dealing with the coronavirus pandemic for the past 18 months. In the past few years, however, the hospital has also faced staffing shortages, including in its Labor and Delivery Unit.

In addition to the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, “we were also dealing with the fact that we weren’t doing any outpatient surgeries, we weren’t doing any outpatient procedures, out ER volume was down significantly,” Thomas said. “So that creates its own challenges.

“We do have some areas where we have been working hard to recruit new staff and we’ve been successful,” Thomas said. “I feel like with the worst of the pandemic behind us, we can start to focus on the future and what that looks like.”

Hospital spokeswoman Anna Manning said the recruitment process for a new CEO is underway and, “We will keep our community informed when a new leader has been identified.”