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Beebe eyes new hybrid clinic near Georgetown

Katie Tabeling

Beebe Healthcare’s main Lewes campus. The southern Delaware health care system recently filed preliminary plans to build a hybrid emergency department on U.S. 113 between Millsboro and Georgetown. | PHOTO COURTESY OF BEEBE HEALTHCARE

GEORGETOWN — Exploring other options to expand in Sussex County, Beebe Healthcare has submitted a notice of intent to build a hybrid freestanding emergency department (FED) between Millsboro and Georgetown.

The proposed facility will bring both emergency and urgent medical care through a collective 24/7 walk-in care center to both major towns in southern Delaware along U.S Route 113. Beebe officials estimated the project cost at between $10 million and $15 million.

If the Beebe Millsboro-Georgetown facility is approved and opened, patients who arrive for walk-in or emergency care will be evaluated to determine the level of care needed. Typically in the hybrid model, only patients who qualify as emergency cases would be charged the higher emergency department visit rate, thus cutting down costs for patients and health care providers.

Beebe President and CEO Dr. David Tam stressed that the hybrid model will improve health care access in a gap area, as both Millsboro and Georgetown are the largest zip codes in Sussex County. Both towns have a combined population of 60,000 and are on target to grow in the next three years.

“[It] will result in patient care at the requisite level necessary, improving emergency medical care utilization and cost reduction for payers and patients – all benefiting the greater community,” Tam told the Delaware Business Times.

The closest hospitals are Beebe’s main campus in Lewes, TidalHealth Nanticoke in Seaford, and Bayhealth in Milford — all about a half hour away. Patients who require hospital services would be transferred via ambulance to those hospitals or other acute care facilities as needed, according to documents that Delaware Business Times reviewed through a Freedom of Information Act request.

But Tam also told DBT that the proposed Millsboro-Georgetown facility would “mirror the services of a hospital-based emergency department, staffed by physicians, advanced practice providers and registered nurses, and providing similar levels of diagnostic and emergency care as the hospitals.”

Over the past year, Beebe Healthcare has gained ground in terms of expanding its footprint. With Tam at the helm, the health care system opened its comprehensive cancer center last August and made significant headway on its $125 million specialty surgical center off Route 24.

However, it remains to be seen whether it will gain the approval of the Delaware Health Resources Board, which must approve new health care facilities to ensure supply meets demand.  

In October, the board granted preliminary approval of Bayhealth’s $35 million hybrid center. That came a year after both Beebe and Bayhealth sought to build emergency departments in Sussex County, with Bayhealth filing a proposal for Milton. The state review committee recommended denying both proposals in part due to the cost consumers would face from emergency services.

Bayhealth withdrew its application for a facility on Route 9 and Hudson Road, to “address concerns of the review committee regarding cost implications of the project,” according to Bayhealth representatives.  Beebe’s 2019 application was ultimately denied. Bayhealth refiled an application for the same location, and in November, Bayhealth received the written order of approval from the Delaware Health Resources Board.

Beebe Healthcare requested the Delaware Health Resources Board reconsider the Bayhealth proposal on the grounds that the board “acted outside its statutory granted authority” when it materially failed to follow its adopted procedures, the Cape Gazette reported. The board denied this request in its November meeting.

“Beebe absolutely embraces the hybrid FED concept and model. At the same time, we believe that the location of a hybrid FED must be a primary factor and consideration in its rationale and cost-effective development and construction,” according to documents filed with the Health Resources Board on Dec. 1. “In this regard, we believe that building a hybrid FED to serve the communities of Georgetown and Millsboro … is paramount.”

Beebe Healthcare anticipates filing its formal state application on or before May 31, officials reported.

By Katie Tabeling

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