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Bayhealth Sussex moves to start construction on new child care facility

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Bayhealth will start construction soon on its new child care center in Milford for employees at the Sussex Campus. | PHOTO OF RENDERING COURTESY OF BAYHEALTH

MILFORD — Bayhealth employees at the Sussex Campus will soon have more support as plans for a new child care facility start to bloom. 

Bayhealth currently operates a child care center at the Kent Campus in Dover, consistently filling its 70 available spots and maintaining a waiting list of more than 150 children. Some of those on the waiting list are from the Milford area and will greatly benefit from a closer facility, according to Bayhealth Senior Vice President and Chief Human Resources Office Darlene Stone.

Child care is a huge issue for working parents,” Stone told the Delaware Business Times. “My children have always attended child care onsite where I worked. It’s important that our employees are able to raise a family while continuing to work.”

The new facility in Milford will be located on the Sussex Campus just feet away from hospital doors and close by for eligible employees with infants, toddlers and school aged children. For those who have minimal child care options in the area or take their children to the Kent Campus for care, the new site will make all the difference.

Erica McPhail and her husband both work in the Milford area and now drive 30 minutes to and from the Kent Campus to take their children to the Bayhealth-run child care center in Dover. McPhail is the adult inpatient nurse residency coordinator for the Sussex Campus and said she’s looking forward to the new child care center opening, especially after their third child is born who is already on the waiting list for the Kent facility. 

“We started looking for child care during the pandemic; that was difficult. So I was lucky enough to be called for a spot that came available [at the Kent Campus]. I’m so indebted to their center just because I know my children are safe there and the joy they have on their faces, I feel like I wouldn’t get that anywhere else. There’s no better peace of mind than knowing your children are safe,” McPhail told DBT.

Opening the child care center in Milford, however, will help with the peace of mind the McPhail’s feel on a daily basis.

“It would put some time back into my day both in the evenings and the mornings. I’m really excited because that’s time I get to spend with my family. As a working mother, I’m just so grateful to the center and that Bayhealth can provide that opportunity to us. A lot of workplaces don’t have that opportunity. This allows me to keep working. I love being a mom and that’s one of my favorite things, but that’s not the only thing that I am. I’m also a nurse and it’s a great feeling that this center allows me the opportunity to do both,” she added. 

Both McPhail and Stone said excitement for the new center is growing amongst staff in Milford who often have to contend with limited child care options. 

Bayhealth expects to open its new Milford center in March of 2025 with 102 available spots, which will grow overtime to 204 spots, giving priority to families currently on the waiting list who work at the Sussex Campus like McPhail. The center will be open from 6 a.m. through 7:30 p.m., offering even more childcare options for employees who work 12-hour hospital shifts.

The already-established child care center at the Kent Campus boasts accreditation from the National Association for the Education of Young Children and no complaints listed on the website for Delaware’s Department of Education. To help ensure the organization’s success in its new-to-be facility, Bayhealth Foundation presented a $50,000 donation to the cause during an annual luncheon hosted by the Auxiliary last year.

“It’s exciting for us because we do start at infants and we’ll be offering for the first time at that [Sussex] location a summer program, as well, for school aged children who really are too old to go to daycare but not old enough to stay at home,” Stone told DBT. “Imagine being a nurse on the floor and worried about your child coming home from school to an empty house. That’s what we want to help avoid. We’re thrilled about this and the staff is excited about it.”

Stone added that Bayhealth expects the new center to bring at least 25-30 new jobs to the area, as well as act as a recruitment and retention tool for new and established professionals at the Sussex Campus.

As a nonprofit healthcare system, Stone said Bayhealth is accepting donations to help make the child care center a reality. More information is available online at www.bayhealth.org/foundation/what-we-do/sussex-childcare.

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