Beebe Healthcare is expanding its footprint in central and eastern Sussex County.
Hospital officials met with neighbors Oct. 17 to review the ongoing and planned projects, including its recent shift to expand at its Route 24 campus, not in Lewes.
“It became evident to us that we should plan to build out at Route 24 because that’s more centrally located, and it’s closer to where most of the population is,” said Beebe President and CEO Jeffrey Fried. “While we could build a tower here, beyond that there would be very little limited opportunities to grow.”
If Beebe needs additional beds in the future, they will most likely be built out on Route 24, he said.
“We’re certainly not abandoning this campus,” Fried said, noting that cardiac surgery and the intensive care unit will remain, and all trauma cases will be also be handled in Lewes.
A proposed five-story bed tower at Savannah Road and Fourth Street is now off the table, but Beebe is moving forward with other upgrades to the Lewes campus.
Work is already underway at the Lewes campus, as crews are building a new hybrid operating room in the section of the hospital along Savannah Road.
The west entrance will be more clearly distinguished as the main entrance to the hospital. In addition to some exterior upgrades, the layout will be changed to give visitors a straight shot into the hospital. Currently, visitors must navigate a series of hallways to get where they need to go. There is no timeline for the upgrades, as the project will require at least four different permits; however, the plan is to finish the work by the end of 2019.
The east entrance, by the emergency department, will also undergo renovations, including the demolition of the office building at Fourth Street and Savannah Road, better signage and landscaping enhancements. Work will begin in this winter for spring completion.
All semi-private rooms will become private rooms as part of the project.
Beebe has broken ground for its new Millville campus on Route 17. The campus will include an 24-bay emergency department and a new cancer treatment center. There will be no inpatient beds. Fried said the Millville campus will accept an estimated 3,500 patients annually who would have traveled to Lewes for emergency services. A Memorial Day 2020 opening is planned.
Beebe is also planning to build an emergency department in Georgetown. The project is still in the planning stages, but will likely be located in the vicinity of its existing walk-in center near Route 113 and Route 404. Officials anticipate 24 to 26 bays for emergency patients. The new emergency facility would care for about 3,500 patients annually.
In both cases, trauma patients would still be transported to the Lewes campus.
In Rehoboth, Beebe is forging ahead with its plan to build a new outpatient, short-stay surgical center on Warrington Road, near Route 24. Once complete, the new facility will house the labor and delivery department, while also serving as the base for most elective and minor surgical procedures. If Beebe gets approval from the health resources board, groundbreaking is planned for spring 2019 with an anticipated opening in mid-2022.
All projects should collectively relieve stress on the Lewes campus, specifically parking. Removing nearly 7,000 of the emergency department’s 48,000 annual visits will have a significant impact, said Rick Schaffner, Beebe’s executive vice president and chief operating officer.
To improve the parking situation beyond that, Schaffner said, both the existing office building at Fourth Street and Savannah Road and the former convalescence center behind the parking garage will be demolished to make way for more parking. Together, more than 150 new parking spaces are expected.