Beebe Healthcare has revised its expansion plans and now envisions new facilities in Millville and at its Route 24 campus as well as enlarging the main hospital in Lewes.
The $180 million project was approved by the hospital’s board of directors June 7, and the first phase of construction could begin as early as fall 2018.
Beebe’s original concept for expansion was to build a new, five-story wing at its Savannah Road campus in the heart of Lewes. However, hospital officials said, community comments on the original plan and continued monitoring of the region’s growing population and the hospital’s rising inpatient census figures have led them to revise the project.
“We got a lot of feedback that said it would be great if we could do something on Route 24 since most of the people we serve are south and west of Lewes,” said Jeffrey Fried, president and CEO of Beebe Healthcare. “We’ve come up with a plan that spans three campuses and really continues what we’ve been trying to do in terms of making it easier for people to access the services we provide.”
Beebe plans to add a new facility to the Route 24 campus with a short-term inpatient surgical center on the southwest side of the property. Richard Schaffner, executive vice president and chief operating officer, said the new facility will focus on minor procedures that require less hospital recovery time.
Alex Sydnor, vice president of external affairs, said more serious surgeries that require longer hospital stays will remain at the Lewes campus.
“We anticipate the [Route 24] surgical center to be focused on planned, scheduled procedures to provide a better patient experience because they’ll never get bumped by emergency cases,” he said.
“We know we can create a better experience for these patients by developing a site just for them and not mixing them with trauma, emergency and intensive care,” Fried said.
The proposed facility would have five operating rooms, pre- and post-op care areas, 12 recovery bays, 24 inpatient private rooms and all the necessary support services.
New campus in Millville
In a significant move, Beebe is planning to build a new South Sussex County campus in Millville to accommodate its South Coastal population. The new campus will have a year-round emergency department and a satellite for the Tunnell Cancer Center with radiation and chemotherapy services. Existing facilities on Route 26 – walk-in care, primary care, rehab therapy, lab express and diagnostic imaging – will remain at their current location, officials said.
The project is planned on a 20-acre site on Route 17, south of Burbage Road near Millville By the Sea, which Beebe has owned for nearly a decade. An earlier plan to develop the property fell victim to the economic downturn in 2008, which forced Beebe to put plans on the back burner.
In Lewes, Beebe will no longer pursue the five-story, modern-looking, curved building it had proposed in 2015. Instead, Schaffner said, the new wing is designed as a three- to four-story, traditional building with space for maternity services.
“I think it will embrace more of the historic character people were looking for,” said Schaffner, referring to negative comments on the wave-shaped building officials received during community meetings.
Schaffner doesn’t anticipate building out the entire new wing, but they will instead leave some of it available for future expansion. When initially complete, the private-bed capacity at the Lewes campus is expected to be 178. An additional 60 beds could be added as the rest of the new wing is needed.
Beebe is licensed for 210 beds, but rarely, if ever, sets up and staffs that many. Schaffner said hospital staff prepares for a capacity of up to 180 beds; however, some rooms are semi-private and occupied by more than one patient.
The Lewes campus will remain the site of heart and vascular care, and officials plan to create a dedicated heart, stroke and vascular center.
Portions of the Shaw and Lynch buildings were to be demolished as part of the original expansion plan, but that is no longer required in the new plan. Demolition of Beebe Office Building on the rear of the property will take place as previously planned, to create an anticipated 135 new parking spaces.
As the expansion project was only approved by the board June 7, officials do not yet have a new concept plan to present to the public. The design and engineering phases are beginning now, Schaffner said, and should take 12 to 18 months. Community meetings are planned to keep the public informed of the expansion efforts.
“We recognize that these facilities are important to serve the community, but we also understand that the people inside them are really the most important assets we have,” Fried said. “We’re going to continue to work to recruit and retain great staff members and physicians so we can deliver the care that they need.”