Beebe Healthcare proposes a trio of projects to meet patients’ needs

March 18, 2018

Beebe Healthcare has proposed a trio of projects on the eastern side of Sussex County that reflects an estimated investment of $180 million. “This exciting expansion project is the largest in our 101-year history,” said Alex Sydnor, vice president of external affairs at Beebe Healthcare, who outlined the plans:

• At the medical center on Savannah Road in Lewes, a new, four-story patient wing with additional private rooms for complex medical and surgical patients will be constructed. Supported by a $10 million gift from the Ma-Ran Foundation of Peggy and Randall Rollins, the largest gift ever received by Beebe, the facility will be named the Margaret H. Rollins Pavilion. It includes a dedicated Heart and Vascular Center of Excellence, as well as expanded and upgraded labor and delivery capabilities.

With the new wing, Sydnor added, will come a move to make all patient rooms private, which will be more satisfying for patients, more efficient to operate and will help reduce the threat of infection.

• In Rehoboth, a new specialty surgical hospital will be built on land owned by Beebe adjacent to the Rehoboth Health Campus off John J. Williams Highway (Rte. 24). Intended for less complex, scheduled surgeries rather than emergency trauma surgeries, the new hospital will accommodate both out-patients and shorter-term in-patients. This site will be the future home of Beebe’s newly created and state-of-the-art Minimally Invasive Surgical Center of Excellence, making possible the use of surgical robotics.

The Rehoboth site is a more convenient location than the main campus in Lewes, Sydnor said, especially for population growth to the south and west. It should provide a much more satisfactory and streamlined experience for patients, and parking will be easier than at a larger hospital.

• In Millville, a new Beebe Health Campus - South Coastal will be built, featuring a freestanding emergency department with 22 emergency bays and on-site imaging. The campus also will be home to a state-of-the-art second location for Beebe Healthcare’s renowned Tunnell Cancer Center, offering cancer treatments — including medical oncology, chemotherapy and radiation oncology. These services will expand upon the existing diagnostic imaging, physical rehabilitation, laboratory and walk-in care services already offered in the area.

“This is truly a community project,” Sydnor said. “We have worked with the community for years.” There’s a sense of isolation in the area caused by the Indian River Bay and Inlet, he explained. The time required to travel to the existing Tunnell Center doubles in summer traffic.

Barry Hamp, executive director of the Tunnell Cancer Center, emphasized that the new facility, although smaller, would have all the same services as the one in Rehoboth. He knows there is huge interest in the community. He went to the South Coastal Library to hear Beebe’s COO Rick Schaffner share plans and couldn’t get in. “It was packed. People were standing along the walls,” he said.

Hamp is glad patients will have the choice to get treatment closer to home. He is also pleased that patients, staff and physicians were asked for ideas to incorporate in a new building. “There was an amazing response,” he said. “We will try to put as many of those ideas into practice as possible.”

One example is to decrease the amount of walking required by patients. Patients won’t have to go more than 30 to 50 feet to get to treatment areas or to visit a doctor, Hamp said. All the caregivers will be located in the center of the building, which will facilitate meetings for coordination of care. Doctors will rotate between the two cancer centers, Hamp said.

Electronic solutions for registration, sign-in and insurance changes will simplify as much of the usual paperwork as possible.

There will be a pharmacy on site to provide medications for chemotherapy or infusions. The facility will include a linear accelerator to deliver radiation.

A food service section, something not available at the Rehoboth location, is planned to provide a small selection of fresh, handmade soups or sandwiches for patients.

A donor has provided a library of movies on DVDs. Some of the rooms will be private, some three-walled, some open. Each area will have its own adjustable lighting.

Hamp said a weekly art program and pet therapy program may be possible, and wifi will be available.

Start date for construction in Rehoboth is anticipated this fall, with opening possible in the winter of 2019.

These plans have been in the works for a long time, Sydnor said. Intentions were to have these facilities built 10 years ago, but the real estate market crash shelved the plans. Beebe Medical Foundation has been running a significant philanthropic campaign that has raised more than $24 million. Construction costs beyond what is ultimately raised through the campaign will be financed through a bond offering.

“We are striving to meet the growing demand of a growing community,” he said. Population growth in Sussex County is projected to more than double the national average over the next five years. With retirees — older people who require more health care — comprising a significant part of that population growth, available resources would be strained. Oncology needs are expected to increase by 32 percent through 2022, and surgeries by 63 percent in 2024. Emergency room visits surpassed 40,000 in 2017.

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