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Health Care News Sussex County

Bayhealth-PAM aim to open more beds in Sussex

Katie Tabeling

PAM Rehabilitation plan to open a 40-bed building on the Sussex Campus, valued at $33 million. | PHOTO COURTESY OF DIVISION OF HEALTH AND SOCIAL SERVICES

MILFORD — Through its partnership with Post Acute Medical (PAM) Rehabilitation, Bayhealth will be able to nearly double its acute beds at its Sussex Campus for immediate care after it builds a $33.2 million freestanding rehab center, if state regulators sign off on the proposal.

Given that the demand in central and southern Delaware has been steadily growing since the campus opened in 2019, Bayhealth Senior Vice President of Planning and Business Development John Van Gorp said opening those beds are well-needed.

“We’ve seen significant growth in our [medical surgical] units since opening, even pre-COVID, we’ve had significant growth,” Van Gorp told the Health Resources Board on Jan. 27. “And it’s put a lot of pressure on us in terms of being able to house patients.”

Bayhealth and PAM plan to build the rehab center on the Sussex Campus, as a partnership to hand off the in-patient rehabilitation services. In return, Bayhealth and PAM would have a 50-50 partnership over PAM’s Dover facility, the Milford operations and a future Georgetown operation, bringing the two health care organizations in a closer relationship than before. 

Roughly 40% of PAM’s patients seen at the PAM Dover are Bayhealth patients who live in Sussex County.

The Bayhealth Hospital, Sussex Campus opened in 2019 with 152 beds, including 40 beds for a separately-licensed in-patient rehab center. But its 96 medical-surgical beds have been more than 100% occupied for the past few weeks, in part due to the spread of the omicron COVID variant, Van Gorp said.

In the last two years, the Bayhealth Sussex Campus has seen a 16% growth in admission, 12% growth in observation cases and 60% in patient days, Van Gorp reported.

“PAM has proven to be an excellent partner of Bayhealth,working with us to help discharge patients and transition them to great outcomes,” he added. “One of the benefits of this new partnership is that it creates an opportunity for us to use those vacated beds for acute care services.”

If the freestanding rehab facility is approved, PAM and Bayhealth will construct a shell building across the street from the hospital with enough capacity for 50 beds, although PAM is not seeking a bed expansion at this time. Bayhealth will lease the land to PAM Rehabilitation Hospital of Georgetown, LLC, a partnership in which both entities will share an equal stake.

The first floor of the PAM Rehabilitation on Sussex Campus will feature outpatient services and administration, while the second floor will hold the beds. Both floors will have a full-service gym.

Kristen Smith, the PAM executive vice president and president of clinical innovation and business intelligence, said the key to the Bayhealth Sussex Campus facility is that it will operate as part of the hospital itself.

That means it will staff a physical medicine and rehabilitation medical director, as well as offer internal medicine, prosthetic/orthotics services as well as speech therapy. Smith also stressed that PAM plans to be on the cutting edge of rehabilitation services, be it through state-of-the-art technologies that include robotics or seeking stroke certification.

“We really promote certification for rehabilitation registered nurses to enhance the clinical expertise of rehab nurses as well as the physical therapy and orthopedic staff,” Smith said. “There will most likely be other medical specialties coming from Bayhealth as we continue to see patients and transition their care.” 

As the proposal is still set for a public hearing, the Health Resources Board has yet to vote on the PAM Rehabilitation Hospital at the Bayhealth Sussex Campus.


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