Plans for emergency departments in Georgetown and Harbeson have been scratched for now, after one plan was withdrawn and the other denied Aug. 15.
Both Bayhealth and Beebe Healthcare had proposed emergency room facilities and were awaiting final approval by the Delaware Health Resources Board to move ahead with the buildings, despite a review committee's June recommendation to deny both plans. Hours before the board's meeting, Bayhealth announced it was pulling plans for a Harbeson emergency department that would have been located at the intersection of Route 9 and Hudson Road.
In July, Bayhealth stated it was committed to building a facility, but John Van Gorp, Bayhealth senior vice president of Planning and Business Development, said Aug. 15 officials now acknowledge the committee's concerns.
“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 Therefore, while we have withdrawn the application for the freestanding emergency department, we will be moving forward with plans to provide primary and specialty care as well as diagnostic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,” Van Gorp said.
He said Bayhealth will address and take into account concerns raised by the committee when it submits a future plan.
After the sudden withdrawal of Bayhealth's plan, the board was left to consider Beebe Healthcare's plan for an emergency department on Route 404 in the same complex as La Red, a Veterans Administration clinic and Sun Behavioral Health.
Seven voting board members approved denial of the project for all the same reasons that the review committee recommended. One member abstained; Ted Becker, board member and mayor of Lewes, recused himself.
John Walsh, a board member and review committee member, said costs for emergency services average $1,484 versus $126 at a walk-in facility. Pricey, new emergency facilities do not fit with Gov. John Carney's Executive Order 25, designed to curb healthcare costs. “If you build it, people may use it as their first resource instead of the alternatives,” he said.
Staffing the emergency department with full-time doctors and nurses when there is already a shortage in Sussex County would also pose difficulties, Walsh said.
Nearby, he said, Nanticoke Hospital's emergency department offers services at a lower cost and would be adversely affected if another emergency department is added to the area. “Any drain on use of Nanticoke could tip them over,” Walsh said, adding Nanticoke's facility primarily serves Medicaid and Medicare patients, not those with private insurance.
Speaking after the board's decision, Mark Loukides, Beebe Healthcare's vice president of facilities and environment of care, said Beebe Healthcare is disappointed the board denied plans for a freestanding emergency department in Georgetown.
“We believe our proposal would bring emergency services to an area in need in central Sussex County. Beebe Healthcare first invested in growing services such as primary care physician offices and walk-in care in Georgetown and the surrounding area,” Loukides said. “We made these investments to keep our neighbors, families, and visitors from costly emergency department visits for nonemergencies. 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.”
Loukides said he was unsure whether Beebe will submit a new plan. “A decision has not been made at this time,” he said.