Bayhealth, leaders beam with pride during Milford ‘topping out’ ceremony

MILFORD – A tree, an American flag and a Delaware flag rested on a 13-foot long steel beam weighing 200 pounds as it was hoisted into the air Tuesday afternoon at the new Bayhealth South – Sussex Campus.

The tree signified new life, a construction tradition that has roots deep in Scandinavian culture, according to Whiting-Turner Construction Company Vice President Josh Fanelli. The flags also carried historic meanings. Once placed on completed structures in political protest of policies which weren’t favorable to workers, the flags today represented pride.

The beam, one of two signed by community members over the last year, was placed on the highest part of the steel structure by construction workers during a ceremonial “Topping Out” event years in the making.

Bayhealth CEO Terry Murphy and others leading the event expressed appreciation for the hundreds of construction professionals who have collectively submitted over 150 hours of work on the project to date.

“These folks have worked day in and day out and we really appreciate it,” he said while including hospital staff in his remarks.

“Bayhealth is a leader not just in healthcare, but in driving economic growth in Kent and Sussex counties,” Governor John Carney said. “The investment in this new, state-of-the-art facility will expand access to quality healthcare for children, seniors and Delawareans across the central and southern portion of our state. It will create good-paying jobs, help us attract more businesses to set up shop here, and make the Milford area an even better place to live, work and raise a family. The positive impact of this $300 million investment would be really difficult to overstate.”

More than half of Bayhealth’s contractors and subcontractors are Delaware-based businesses, Mr. Fanelli proudly told the crowd. The majority of materials for the project will also be purchased through Delaware vendors like the approximately 6,750 pieces of steel already used. The steel was purchased from and fabricated by Crystal Steel, Inc. of Delmar.

Gov. Carney began his remarks with a joke, saying, “I wasn’t exactly sure what a topping out ceremony was, somewhere between a ground breaking and ribbon cutting.”

But with pride matching the flags waving in the wind on the beam, Gov. Carney added, “Nobody ever wants to be sick in the hospital, but the reality is that we’re all going to be there at one time. And we want the best. . . This is a really big deal for our community and our state. My guess is this will be the largest employer in this area.”

Architects from CannonDesign designed the new and innovative health campus. Bayhealth officials say it will include a six-story hospital with an expanded emergency department and additional operating rooms. A 70,000 sq. ft. outpatient center will also be created.

“The ground we sit on is more than seven times larger than the old Milford Memorial site. That site opened in 1938,” I. G. Burton said. “We’ll have all private rooms with the latest technology which in turn will help to attract the best talent available.”

Nemours Children’s Health System will also provide specialized services for children and seniors in a separate building on the Bayhealth Sussex Campus, something Mr. Murphy said the community is especially excited to see come to fruition.

“What we see is better healthcare for our children, our grandchildren; we see world class healthcare that doesn’t involve us crossing the bridge… right here in Milford,” Bill Strickland said of when he drives passed the new health campus under construction. “The return investment is considerable.”

According to Lieutenant Governor Bethany Hall Long, Bayhealth has also recently reached a partnership with Bayada, a home healthcare agency, to continue seeking an expansion in services.

In March, Bayhealth announced it reached an agreement with Nationwide Healthcare Services for the sale of the grounds that currently house Bayhealth Milford Memorial on Clarke Avenue. Nationwide plans to transform the 22-acre site and surrounding buildings into an innovative multi-use healthcare-focused community, according to a press release from Bayhealth.

The agreement follows through on a commitment Bayhealth made in November of 2014 to find a buyer that could repurpose the property into a viable community resource once Bayhealth relocates to its new campus off of Delaware Route 1, near the corner of Cedar Creek (Route 30) and Wilkins Road.

“The next few years hold a lot of promise for Milford and its surrounding areas,” Milford Mayor Bryan Shupe said. “The Bayhealth Sussex Campus and the redevelopment of the Clarke Avenue facility will serve as a catalyst for economic growth. We expect to see our existing businesses get a boost, and hopefully we’ll see the launch of new businesses—both small and large.

“Your engagement, honesty and passion will be the new legacy of Bayhealth.”

Jennifer Antonik can be reached at mc@newszap.com

Jennifer Antonik writes special reports for the Delaware State News

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