Despite pandemic, Beebe keeps eye on Sussex expansion
LEWES — Beebe Healthcare was prepared for a big year with multi-million-dollar projects and the arrival of new CEO and President Dr. David Tam, and, despite the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, Beebe is showing no signs of slowing down.
With a new freestanding emergency department at the South Coastal Health Campus near Millville, the southern Delaware health care system has continued construction for a cancer treatment center and long-term planning of an expansion north to Milton.
Tam, who started his tenure at Beebe a month early due to the pandemic, envisions this expansion as critical to the mission of comprehensive care for all Sussex County visitors and residents.
“When I took this job, I wanted to be part of an independent organization, not a large system,” said Tam, who previously served as chief operating officer of Providence Saint John’s Health Center in California. “These plans to expand west and north are important because we need to expand our reach to segments of the population that perhaps have not received the attention that it needs.”
This spring, Beebe opened the new freestanding emergency department at the South Coastal Health Campus. This facility operates 24/7 with 23 exam rooms, six of which are devoted to expediting less-serious ailments, as well as an imaging department and ultrasound services.
“This isn’t just an emergency room where you go to get fish hooks out of your fingers,” Tam said. “This is a fully-functioning emergency department that connects people that live there to the care from our main campus in Lewes.”
In coming months, Beebe will open its second comprehensive care center at the South Coastal Health Campus. Capping off the $48 million project, that facility will include medical, radiation oncology and hematology services.
Looking to the future, Beebe is continuing construction on its $124 million surgical hospital on Route 24 in Rehoboth Beach with a target opening in 2022.
This facility is designed with short-stay surgeries in orthopedics and general urological and gynecological surgeries in mind. Plans include four operating rooms, seven recovery bays and 12 inpatient rooms.
Beyond that, Beebe officials unveiled plans for a new campus in Milton earlier this year. That campus is proposed to include a family practice and outpatient services, something Tam said was stressed because of the coronavirus pandemic.
But while many retirees move to southeastern Sussex – about 26% of Sussex County’s population is 65 or older and Medicare recipients make up nearly 27% of the population – there’s a collection of essential workers and those in the tourism industry to support it, Tam added.
“What the pandemic really taught me is everything is connected,” he said. “For all those people, there’s restaurants and grocery stories and landscaping companies. The people who work there have families … It’s all an interconnected system of populations, especially during this time.”
In a situation of another public health crisis, Beebe’s network of current and upcoming facilities has the health care system poised to reach all patients at once. For example, Beebe was able to conduct 12,000 COVID-19 drive-thru tests at its facility in Georgetown, right at the heart of the state’s hotspot.
“When I was in the Navy, you talk about planning for the worst and hoping for the best,” said Tam, who is a retired Naval captain. “This expansion is key in this fight today.”
By Katie Tabeling