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Beebe revises expansion plans

Downtown Lewes bed tower gone, women’s health moving to Route 24
June 15, 2018

Beebe Healthcare officials have shifted plans for dramatic expansion in downtown Lewes and will instead focus expansion at the medical group’s Route 24 campus. 

Gone is the four-story bed tower planned for the corner of Savannah Road and Fourth Street in Lewes. Instead, Beebe will move its women’s health services, including labor and delivery, to its planned specialty surgical hospital on Route 24. The move frees space in the Lewes hospital and allows for conversion of all rooms to private.

“We want to make sure we remain cost effective and we don’t want to build too much capacity,” said Jeffrey Fried, president and CEO. “If, over time, we need to expand, we’ll expand beds out at Route 24.” 

Rick Schaffner, executive vice president and chief operating officer, said more surgical procedures are becoming out-patient or require shorter stays in the hospital. Of the 14,000 operations completed by Beebe doctors so far this year, he said, only 3,200 are considered in-patient. He said the new expansion plan shifts those procedures to Route 24, while reserving the Lewes campus for trauma and more intense, higher-end procedures requiring longer stays. 

The $182 million multiphase project is already underway, beginning last year with construction work on a new hybrid operating room and a third cardiac catheterization/electrophysiology lab. 

The specialty surgical center planned for Route 24, near the intersection of Warrington Road, is by far the largest piece of the expansion, estimated to cost about $124 million. With the addition of women’s health services, the building plan has grown by a floor, and it will now stand four stories high with a basement. The building will exceed Sussex County’s height limit, and officials plan to seek variances with the county board of adjustment. Beebe will also seek to rezone the property. Groundbreaking is expected for spring 2019 with construction ending in 2022.

In the short term, Beebe is adding two obstetricians – Dr. Luisa Galdi and Dr. Amanda Celaschi – to its all-female labor and delivery team. The new OBs will join the staff in July and October, Fried said.

Alex Sydnor, vice president of external affairs, said a new facility for labor and deliver is sorely needed.

“It’s an old unit that really needs to be rehabbed,” he said. “Starting from scratch will actually be a better way to go.” 

Though the bed tower is no longer part of the plan, other changes are coming to the Lewes campus, including demolition of the medical arts building at the corner of Savannah Road and Fourth Street. In its place, Beebe plans to add more parking and a small park-like area. There are also plans to demolish the Beebe Office Building behind the parking garage to accommodate more parking.

The lobby of the west entrance, near the parking garage, will be expanded, and a new configuration will mean visitors won’t have to zigzag through the halls to get to the elevators, gift shop or cafeteria. 

Upgrades to patient rooms will likely occur after the speciality surgical center is complete, allowing for the closure of sections of the hospital for renovation. When complete, Beebe will have 180 private beds in its facilities. 

Margaret “Peggy” Rollins and her husband Randall pledged a gift of $10 million for the expansion, specifically for the bed tower. In response to the new plan, they’ve agreed to reallocate their donation to other portions of the project and Beebe has renamed its Savannah Road complex to the Margaret H. Rollins Lewes Campus. 

Judy Aliquo, president and CEO of Beebe Medical Foundation, said the Rollins’ donation has inspired many others in the community to follow their lead. However, Fried said, Beebe still plans to increase its debt service by $7 million per year to fund the expansion.

“Community support is so important and can make a difference,” she said. “We continue to need support, and we will need it forever. It’s a very important part of this project and all future projects for Beebe.” 

The third major piece of the expansion plans is to build a new South Coastal campus with an emergency room and cancer center on Route 17 in Millville. Those plans were announced last summer and did not change in the recently revised plan. The project is planned on a 20-acre site south of Burbage Road near Millville By the Sea. Groundbreaking is planned for this fall with a 2020 completion.