Bayhealth to construct $10M ER heart close to Milton

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Bayhealth announced a $10 million facility in Sussex County, bringing up to 75 jobs with it. | PHOTO COURTESY OF BAYHEALTH

MILTON — One year after withdrawing an application for a freestanding emergency department 2 miles east of Harbeson, Bayhealth will be moving forward with opening an emergency room and walk-in care center within the next two years.

The $10.2 million facility will bring primary care physicians, specialists, diagnostic services and emergency care to southern Delaware on 18 acres near the intersection of Lewes-Georgetown Highway (Route 9) and Hudson Road. Early plans show a building measuring between 30,000 to 40,000 square feet and Bayhealth officials anticipate creating between 50 and 75 jobs.

Bayhealth’s Milton facility represents the health care system’s growing reach in southern Delaware and the announcement more than a year after opening a new $315 million facility in Milford. Bayhealth also partnered up with Nemours Children’s Health System on a new facility there, and Nemours will open primary care and senior care in November.

“Sussex County is growing at an exponential rate. The area directly surrounding the location of our new center, along Hudson Road and Route 9, is growing especially fast,” Bayhealth President and CEO Terry Murphy told Delaware Business Times. “There are also very few health care providers located in close proximity to our new site. This new location will provide our southern Delaware community with much-needed health care services all located in one convenient center.”

The land around Route 9 has one of the fastest  growing populations in Delaware, increasing 21% from 35,295 residents in 2010 to 42,729 in 2019, according to a study done by the marketing firm Claritas Company. The 65 and older population is particularly booming, growing nearly 60% in the same span to 10,135 residents. In the next four years, the overall population is projected to grow 8.2%, including an 18% growth in senior residents.

Beebe Healthcare, based in Lewes, has also been striving to meet the surge in people in the last decade. This spring, Beebe opened a freestanding emergency department and a cancer center at the Beebe South Coastal Health Campus near Millville. Construction work is also underway at Beebe’s $124 million surgical hospital on Route 24 near Rehoboth Beach with a target opening in 2022. Recent plans for a Milton campus recently were withdrawn.

Both Bayhealth and Beebe sought to build an emergency department in Sussex County last year, with Bayhealth filing a proposal with the Delaware Health Resources Board for Milton and Beebe looking to build in Georgetown. But a review committee recommended denying both proposals in part due to the cost consumers would face from emergency services.

The average visit to a ER is estimated at $1,484 compared to $185 for a walk-in clinic, according to data shared with the Delaware’s Health Resources Board in June 2020. Bayhealth withdrew their plans months later to address the concerns brought up, and Beebe’s proposal was later denied by the board.

“This [withdrawing the earlier plan] was done to address what we felt were the concerns of the committee regarding the cost implications,” Murphy said. “Ultimately, the hybrid model was selected to ensure our patients receive the level of care they need in a cost-effective manner.”

At Bayhealth’s Milton facility, all patients arriving for walk-in or emergency services at the new location will receive a medical screening exam to determine their necessary level of care. Only patients who medically qualify as emergency patients will be charged an emergency department rate. Non-emergency cases will be charged as a walk-in clinic visit.

By reducing emergency visits and treating others as walk-in visits, Bayhealth estimates the Milton facility will save the community $2.1 million in health care costs.

During a public hearing on Bayhealth’s proposal this summer, Beebe President and CEO Dr. David Tam supported more walk-in offices and specialty care, but he argued that there was no need for an emergency department in the area. 

“To be perfectly frank, creating a freestanding [emergency department] where someone is actually triaged and evaluated·and then determined whether they’re ER or walk-in … [it] impairs or·worsens the ability to get ER-level care when needed in Sussex County when appropriate,” Tam told the Health Resources board  July 28.

Pointing to the board’s determination last year, he also noted that Beebe has several walk-in centers where lower acuity patients have dropped in their analysis.

“We applaud the growth of walk-in office space and specialty care … This [another walk-in facility] is what Sussex County needs, not another retail partner that will take the information we have and create a problem with patients getting the appropriate level of care,” Tam added. 

In September, the Health Resources Board approved Bayhealth’s plan despite Tam’s criticisms.

In terms of other services, the Bayhealth Milton facility plans on bringing up to five primary care providers, as well as cardiologists, neurologists, surgical specialists and other specialty physicians. Bayhealth officials also envision a full array of lab services and comprehensive imaging. 

To fill these positions, Bayhealth will be recruiting new physicians and medical staff and relying on its rising Graduate Medical Educational programs that offer residency for family medicine and internal medicine practitioners.

“We recognize the growing need for primary care physicians in Delaware … With these programs, Bayhealth will become a teaching hospital with the ultimate goal of retaining the physicians that complete their residencies in our communities,” Murphy said.

By Katie Tabeling

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