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Bayhealth Sussex Campus seeks to add more beds

Katie Tabeling
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Bayhealth, Sussex Campus | DBT PHOTO BY KATIE TABELING

Bayhealth, Sussex Campus is looking to rearrange its set up to maintain beds in the medical/surgical unit. | DBT PHOTO BY KATIE TABELING

MILFORD — Citing the growing population and longer wait times in the emergency room over the past two years, Bayhealth is seeking approval to expand its medical/surgical unit and hopes to add six beds to its intensive care unit at its Sussex Campus.

Since Post Acute Medical (PAM) is slated to take on Bayhealth’s in-patient rehabilitation services, the health care service plans to reallocate the 40 rehab beds to the medical and surgical unit. Bayhealth plans on moving its dialysis unit as well, removing a conference room to free up space. That would bring its medical/surgical bed count to 136 at the Sussex Campus, if approved.

In addition, Bayhealth would also add six beds to the ICU on the second floor, bringing the total beds in the unit to 16, according to documents filed with the Delaware Health Resources Board.

In all, this would increase Bayhealth Sussex Campus in-patient bed count from 157 to 163. Total construction cost is estimated between $3.5 million and $4.2 million.

“Expansion of in-patient beds is the last resort for trying to manage patient care. However, it is a necessity to ensure care is provided to the community and is a key element in care coordination to ensure that patients have access to acute care services,” reads the application filed by Bayhealth.

Bayhealth Hospital, Sussex Campus opened in early 2019, with its primary service area targeted south of Dover and north of Georgetown, reaching as far west as the Maryland border. In all, the population served is estimated at 298,000 residents. 

Bayheath officials project that the same area will rise 6% to 315,541 by 2027, with residents 65 and older driving the bulk of the growth. As Delaware’s population grows older, it could mean that more acute services and specialties are needed, and older patients need longer recovery times in hospitals.

In fiscal year 2020, there were 25,824 patient days logged at Bayhealth Sussex Campus, with occupancy at 98%. By fiscal year 2022, which ended June 30, 2022, patient days were at 37,006 and occupancy was at 105%. 

In fact, Bayhealth Sussex Campus has not operated under 90% occupancy since FY 2019. Eighty percent occupancy is the typical standard for the health care sector, specifically hospitals.

The ICU had 3,232 patient days logged for FY 2022 with an occupancy rate of roughly 89%. In the calendar year 2021 and 2022, Bayhealth Sussex transferred 275 and 312 patients from the emergency department to the ICU.

Included in the application to the Health Resources Board were several letters from supporters, including key members in Bayhealth operations that described how the need for service has grown rapidly in the four years since the Sussex Campus opened.

Bayhealth System Medical Director of Emergency Services Kelly Abbrescia wrote that the hospital routinely experienced situations where patients cannot be admitted to a nursing unit.

“It is not uncommon to see patients holding in the emergency department long after I or any of our practitioners have treated them and ordered placement. These delays are a direct result of a commonly high census and a lack of in-patient beds,” Abbrescia wrote on June 8. 

“It is clear that Bayhealth is in need of expanding as the current number of beds are unable to handle the elevated patient volume during routine times since the hospital has been open, let alone being able to accommodate the additional load related to a breakout in disease,” she continued.

Melisa Edler, the president of medical staff at Bayhealth Sussex, also wrote a letter describing seeing high patient volumes to see the hospital operating “in excess of peak capacity.”

“Throughout the past few years and especially during the pandemic, the rooms have been full and the emergency department has been backed up with patients holding for a bed,” Edler wrote. “In order to provide exceptional care and meet the demands of the local community, additional beds must be added.”

Milford Mayor Archie Campbell, State Sen. David Wilson (R-Milford/Bridgeville), Rep. Bryan Shupe (R-Milford), and Rep. Charles Postles (R-Magnolia/Houston) also wrote letters in support.

If Bayhealth’s application is approved by state regulators, it’s anticipation that the project would start by June 2024 and patients could be housed in those units in July 2024. ICU patients would start occupancy in January 2025.

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