Sussex emergency department plans halted

DOVER — It appears an emergency department will not be coming to the greater Georgetown area in the immediate future.

The Delaware Health Resources Board Thursday denied Beebe Healthcare’s application to build a freestanding emergency department on Del. 404 just west of U.S. 113 about a mile from Beebe’s primary care and walk-in facility in Georgetown.

“Beebe Healthcare is disappointed that the Health Resources Board did not approve our plans for a freestanding emergency department in Georgetown,” Mark Loukides, Beebe’s vice president of Facilities and Environment of Care. “We believe our proposal would bring emergency services to an area in need in central Sussex County.”

Earlier Thursday, Bayhealth withdrew its application for an emergency department.

“After careful consideration, we have decided to withdraw our current application with the Delaware Health Resources Board for a freestanding emergency department on Route 9 east of Harbeson,” Bayhealth Senior Vice President of Planning and Business Development John Van Gorp, said in a statement.

“We remain committed to providing care to this fast-growing area of Sussex County. Therefore, while we have withdrawn the application for the freestanding emergency department, we will be moving forward with plans to provide primary and specialty care as well as diagnostic imaging in an ambulatory care center at the site on Route 9. We will be sharing more details in the near future as we continue planning this project.”

Bayhealth was seeking to build an emergency department with eight treatment bays/exam rooms as part of a larger complex on Route 9 at Hudson Road several miles east of the town of Georgetown.

“Beebe Healthcare first invested in growing services such as primary care physician offices and walk-in care in Georgetown and the surrounding area,” Mr. Loukides said. “We made these investments to keep our neighbors, families, and visitors from costly emergency department visits for non-emergencies. We remain committed to creating greater access to care in Georgetown and all of Sussex County, and we are grateful for the level of support this proposal had from the area.”

Thursday’s health resources board decision followed a preliminary ruling June 25 when a state health review subcommittee voted against recommending approval of either of the Beebe and Bayhealth applications.

The board’s ruling Thursday was disappointing news for Georgetown Mayor Bill West, who has campaigned for an emergency department in the center of the county.

Mayor West remains optimistic and is hopeful plans will be resubmitted.

“I think they are going to resubmit,” said Mayor West, who added his growing list of support includes the Rehoboth fire company, which in a letter offered its 100-percent support in the need for an emergency department in the middle of the county. “So, we have got people coming on board with us.”

At a May 16 meeting before the health resources board, there was opposition to the applications from Beebe and Bayhealth, including Nanticoke Health Services CEO Steve Rose and Millsboro Town Manager Sheldon Hudson.

State Rep. Ruth Briggs King, R-Georgetown, who strongly supports an emergency department in central Sussex County, believes a change in legislation may be the solution.

“Maybe it’s time for Delaware to consider the legislation to look at the requirement for Certificate of Need. I think it’s time we consider that … to eliminate the requirement for Certificate of Need,” said Rep. Briggs King. “We went through it with SUN Behavioral. If you remember we had to intervene and get a piece of legislation because there was a competitor that didn’t think that we needed SUN Behavioral. Two of them from up north, they were challenging it. At last minute we passed a piece of legislation enabling them to move forward. So, I think it’s time that we revisit this.”

In June, the review subcommittee recommended denial of freestanding emergency department applications from Bayhealth and Beebe based on:

•Comments made at the public hearing stated that emergency services are currently available within the proposed service areas.

•The proposals are not in alignment with Delaware’s initiative to lower the costs of healthcare.

•There are less costly alternatives available rather than additional freestanding emergency services

•Both proposals will have a negative impact to the existing health care system.

Beebe’s application was for a 14,413-square foot emergency department, with 21 exam and treatment rooms, advanced diagnostic imaging, an onsite helipad and a pharmacy on site. The total estimated capital cost was projected at just over $20 million.

Rep. Briggs King said both Beebe and Bayhealth “have done their due diligence and determined that there is a need. We would be removing the emergency burden that we are having at both Bayhealth and Beebe. And even at Nanticoke, there is many times when they are on divert. They are so busy and overloaded. Whether it be stroke maintenance or other things, time is very sensitive to me. And with traffic, Georgetown to Beebe, it’s a long trip.”

“I don’t think that we probably need two (emergency departments) in the area,” Rep. Briggs King said. “But I will definitely say we need one.”

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