Meeting healthcare needs is a balancing act

August 20, 2019

Bureaucracy is notoriously sluggish. Decisions require multiple meetings.

Adding subcommittees for recommendations before a committee decision is made makes the process move like mud.

The process for two proposed emergency departments in Sussex County appeared stuck in that mud. A subcommittee reviewed applications from Beebe Healthcare and Bayhealth, and recommended denial of both plans to Delaware Health Resources Board. Compounding the delay, the July board meeting was canceled for lack of quorum. It finally met Aug. 15.

In the meantime, Bayhealth withdrew its plan; based on the subcommittee’s recommendation, the board denied Beebe’s.

The process was lengthy, but when it comes to limiting rising healthcare costs, the public came out ahead.

Cost was at the crux of the board’s decision – specifically the high cost of emergency room treatment. The board’s decision to deny a high-cost emergency facility – which averages $1,484 per visit compared to a walk-in clinic’s $126 per visit – is in line with the governor’s executive order to restrict healthcare costs. One board member said most people go to the higher-cost emergency room, even when less-expensive options are available. As Medicaid and Medicare costs rise, officials seek to curb costs, saving money for taxpayers and the state.

The board also noted Nanticoke Memorial Hospital emergency department, 20 minutes from Georgetown, provides emergency services; Nanticoke would be adversely affected if emergency traffic were diverted. In addition, a Beebe emergency facility is slated to open in 2020 in Millville.

Some will protest a fully staffed emergency department is needed to serve Georgetown and the Route 9 corridor, but board members say emergency services are more quickly accessible along north/south corridors where dual highways provide faster routes.

This was a tough decision, balancing the need for emergency access with the high cost of emergency care. Some will have a 20-minute drive for emergency services, but taxpayers will save considerably on healthcare costs. 

Making excellent primary care more accessible and more affordable in the Cape Region must now be an even higher priority than before so people can get effective care before emergencies arise.


  • Editorials are considered by the editorial board and written by Dennis Forney, Publisher Emeritus, with occasional contributions from other board members: Trish Vernon, CoPublisher and Editor; Dave Frederick, Sports Editor Emeritus; Jen Ellingsworth, Associate Editor; Nick Roth, Sports Editor; and Chris Rausch, CoPublisher and General Manager.

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