MILFORD — Bayhealth President and CEO Terry Murphy announced a “symbiotic” relationship with Nationwide Healthcare Services Tuesday afternoon.
“I’m extremely pleased to share some very exciting news,” he began to tell the crowd of community and state leaders in the board room at Bayhealth’s Milford Memorial Hospital on Clark Avenue.
“Back in November, we promised to work hard to repurpose this into a viable community resource. After a lot of work, we have reached an agreement with Nationwide Healthcare Services for this property and the surrounding Bayhealth buildings,” Mr. Murphy said.
“Our extensive community outreach revealed overwhelming support for a redevelopment plan that focuses on senior housing, skilled nursing care, assisted living and other health care related services – all with the hope of attracting businesses that will create jobs for our community and provide continuity with our new health campus project.”
Nationwide Healthcare Services plans to bring skilled nursing to the facility, along with other needs, to provide continuity with Bayhealth’s new health campus and services.
They currently boast six skilled-care facilities, two in Delaware and four in Pennsylvania. All of which, Nationwide Healthcare Services’ CEO Meir Gelley noted, received four or five star ratings for quality measures under the Medicare program.
Two of their facilities were also ranked among the nation’s best nursing homes by U.S. News and World Report, according to Bayhealth officials.
“We take great pride in providing high quality, affordable care in top-notch facilities,” he said. “We are very excited about this new opportunity. We have a lot of work ahead of us to make sure that our vision for this property is fulfilled and we are excited to be a part of this community.”
Nationwide has contracted with Dynamis Advisors, Inc. to envision a redevelopment plan for the 22-acre site in Milford and its surrounding buildings to create an “innovative multi-use healthcare-focused community.”
Representing the firm, Scott Keller said, “It’s always great to start a project in a new community. The community should be very proud of Bayhealth for the amount of care they put in to finding a reuse of the property.”
Dynamis Advisors, Inc. has 21 years of experience in working with similar projects. More recently, it repurposed two former hospitals into a new intermediate school and a multi-use healthcare focused community, not unlike the project they will undertake in Milford.
“All of these roads lead together. It’s really a convergence of what I call a really winning dinner table,” Delaware’s Lt. Governor Bethany Hall-Long said during the press conference. She gave regrets from Governor John Carney who was originally set to attend the event.
Gov. Carney issued a statement through a press release offered by Bayhealth, stating, “I am pleased that Bayhealth and Nationwide are partnering to invest in this property that has been a major health and employment center in Milford for years. This partnership will mean significant new private investment in Milford, and new, good-paying job.”
Plans for the facility include around 300 full-time jobs and hundreds of temporary contracting positions which Mr. Murphy said would be a “catalyst for economic development.”
“That’s huge,” Delaware’s Economic Development Office Director Bernice Whaley said. “300 jobs for anywhere in Delaware is huge.”
She credits pathways offered by local high schools, including the new allied health pathway at Milford Senior High School, as a way to help fulfill those new job opportunities.
Students completing health-related pathways across the state could graduate high school with national certifications, 200 hours or more in paid internships and college credits.
“It opens up some options. Also, it helps feed the pipeline,” she said optimistically.
Additional healthcare career opportunities will also be made available when the new health campus opens its doors in 2019.
“We hope to be in before the hospital moves out,” Mr. Gelley said. “We are tremendously excited about this community.”
Bayhealth’s new campus will be an “ambulatory health center,” according to Mr. Murphy. He added that the plan will fill needs of the business and community for 50-100 years in the future.
It will include an acute care hospital, a rehabilitation unit, an ambulatory care center and pediatric services through Nemours. Plans also include private rooms, natural lighting and a behavioral health unit not currently offered in nearby areas.
“This new facility with Nationwide will add another $20 million of reinvestment into our community. It will be an additive, symbiotic, relationship, not duplicative,” Mr. Murphy said.
Mr. Gelley expressed similar thoughts, saying Nationwide hopes to enhance and compliment the work of Bayhealth and fill in the gaps where needed.
“I’m so excited about this project. As a really close neighbor, we’ve been concerned about this building closing up,” Senator Gary Simpson joked with the crowd Tuesday afternoon.
According to officials from both companies, Nationwide will explore the feasibility and needs of a variety of services in the coming months. They anticipate occupying a portion of the buildings for a Nationwide skilled nursing facility, but hope to also include like-minded organizations to occupy other portions of the buildings and adjacent parcels.
Plans continue for Bayhealth’s new 169-acre health campus located along Rt. 1 and 30. The final site plans were recently approved by members of the Milford City Council and construction for the facility has begun.
“Through leadership, Bayhealth has proven their commitment to the Milford community as redevelopment of the Clark Avenue facility continues to be a priority for the organization. The redevelopment of this site demonstrates the ingenuity necessary to bring together successful economic development, preservation and quality of life initiatives,” Milford’s Mayor Bryan Shupe said.
“I am very pleased to welcome Nationwide to our community and I know they will become a critical partner in continuing our efforts to create an environment that encourages investment in our heritage and its people.”
The transaction on Bayhealth’s Clark Avenue properties is scheduled to close no later than Aug. 1, 2019.
Jennifer Antonik writes special reports for the Delaware State News