Since opening in October 2020, Aspira Health has quadrupled its staff and added several services to improve access to healthcare in the Cape Region.
Now, with its presence firmly staked in the ground, Aspira is expanding.
Construction on a new office in Ocean View is set to begin this month, offering walk-in care to residents and visitors in southeast Sussex County. By the end of 2022, Aspira also plans to break ground for a 40,000-square-foot health campus on Plantation Road. That facility will house the company’s primary-care practice with room for growth in specialty medicine and space for other providers seeking leasable capacity.
Aspira, which opened on Route 1 in the HomeGoods shopping center in October 2020, was founded by Will Albanese, a pharmacist, and his wife Dr. Lindsay Albanese. As a Sussex native and Cape graduate, Will knew the Cape Region well. Although not from here, Lindsay fell in love with it too. Upon graduating from her residency in 2016, Lindsay and Will decided to move back to Delaware.
Looking at the healthcare landscape of eastern Sussex, Will said there was a strong need to improve access to and affordability of healthcare, whether shorter wait times for primary care or availability of unique services and treatments.
“We used to accept that you had to wait several weeks or months to get healthcare,” said Will, Aspira’s CEO. “So Lindsay and I, having worked in the community, wanted to help the patients that needed help right away.”
Managing member Christopher Timm entered the picture to provide business expertise to get the idea off the ground.
With Lindsay serving as chief medical officer, Aspira added Dr. Maria Childers as director of pediatric care and Dr. Catherine DeLuca as director of primary care. Will and Timm also consider family nurse practitioner Christie Whitlock an instrumental part of Aspira’s launch.
Aspira employed 14 people when it opened; it now has more than 60 working in various roles, from traditional care to telehealth to text lines.
With continued growth in staff and services in mind, Aspira has unveiled plans to add new facilities, seeking to offer more healthcare options for eastern Sussex residents.
“Primary care can’t be on its own,” Timm said. “It has to be surrounded by the things that give it the ability to keep itself up, from mental health [services] to specialists of all forms. We are trying to create a health ecosystem based on responsiveness, need and just ease of use.”
“We want it to be a service that people can reach out and get a satisfactory experience from instantly,” Will added.
In the coming years, Aspira aims to expand its walk-in care hours.
“We need patients to have access,” Timm said. “Being sick at 1 a.m. doesn’t mean you need to spend $8,000 in the ER because you don’t feel well.”
This month, Aspira is set to begin construction on a new 4,000-square-foot facility at 90 Atlantic Ave. in Ocean View. When complete this summer, the new office will offer walk-in care. Timm said the building will have additional rooms for either primary care or rotating specialties in the future.
“That could be dermatology, that could be rheumatology, that could be whatever,” Timm said, noting they’re also looking into other services such as infusions, functional medicine and integrative medicine.
“Aspira is willing to try anything if we think it will help,” Will said.
That mindset is evidenced by Aspira’s reaction to the COVID pandemic. During the last two years, Aspira was well known in the community as a place to go for COVID tests and now COVID treatments.
Will said he’s noticed a lot of people from the Ocean View area were already traveling to Aspira for its services.
“Our growth plan is south,” Timm said. “Will and Lindsay’s hearts are in Sussex County, and we want to get Sussex County right before we start talking about anything else.”
“Our goal with Ocean View was to put a footprint down there,” Timm said. “Aspira doesn’t want to be fragmented. We are not trying to have 17 buildings.”
Plantation Road campus
Closer to its original location, Aspira is planning to build a 40,000-square-foot health campus on Plantation Road, just north of Route 24.
The goal is to offer a variety of services to patients across three buildings at one location.
“As a parent, you don’t want to leave a doctor’s office with a sick kid and have to go to a lab, then go get an X-ray, then get in a car and go to a pharmacy,” Will said. “We’re trying to bring that all [together at Plantation].”
The campus will be home to the company’s primary-care practice as well as specialty services.
“We are adding on a soon-to-be large mental health component to Aspira,” Timm said. “It’s part and parcel with primary care.”
When the land was purchased by Plantations Medical – ownership that’s a combination of Aspira and outside investors – it came with an approved plan. However, Aspira has slightly altered the plan, seeking to utilize green building materials and unique architecture to create an energy-efficient building that sets itself apart while also limiting its impact on the environment. Because of these changes, the plan will need Sussex County’s approval before moving forward.
“If you look around here, the development of commercial space is relatively homogeneous,” Timm said. “It’s square buildings with a ton of asphalt with no aesthetically pleasing or environmentally friendly designs. We want to create a campus that’s in tune with the nature of the space.”
“The building should complement the environment, and the environment should complement the building,” Will added.
The goal is to include trees, bushes, rooftop gardens and other greenery with as little impervious surface as possible. Using pervious pavers in parking areas is one way they plan to accomplish that.
The first building to be built will house Aspira’s primary care. The 10,000-square-foot building has a coastal farm style, paying homage to the land’s long farming history. The building will include a lot of natural light.
“Natural light, for us, is healing,” Timm said.
The campus will provide several areas for patients and staff to relax outside, whether benches to sit, a pavilion in which to hang out or a walking path around the property to exercise.
The second phase of the project will see the addition of 30,000-square-feet of space across two buildings, each with a similar style and feel as the main facility. Each building will be two stories.
“The goal for Aspira is to occupy one of these buildings, or at least one floor of one of these buildings,” Timm said. “This rest of the space will be opened up to medical lease.”
Preferably, Aspira would lease the space to physician groups that want to be part of its ecosystem.
“We’re not just looking to rent space,” Timm said. “It has to be someone who believes in the vision. We’re looking for specialities that complement our care.”
An idea Aspira has is to use one area for medical sharing space, where physicians could rent rooms by the month.
Completion of the first phase is expected within 12 months, with the second phase shortly after, Timm said.
When the Plantation Road campus opens, the existing Aspira building will continue to offer walk-in care, and its pediatrics division will expand. Eventually, Timm said, Aspira is planning to add a pediatric component to its walk-in that’s staffed by pediatricians and pediatric family nurse practitioners with expanded hours.
To learn more about Aspira and its services, go to aspirahealth.net.