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Health Care New Castle County News

ChristianaCare partners on Pa. micro-hospitals

Katie Tabeling
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ChristianaCare in downtown Wilmington. | DBT PHOTO BY KATIE TABELING

WILMINGTON — ChristianaCare is altering its expansion strategy and announced Tuesday it has signed a partnership with Emerus Holdings Inc. to open three “micro-hospitals” in southeastern Pennsylvania by 2025.

ChristianaCare has signed a joint venture agreement with Emerus Holdings to build two neighborhood hospitals in Delaware County, Pa. The agreement also grants Emerus operational oversight of ChristianaCare’s forthcoming West Grove Campus. 

ChristianaCare also plans to open “health and wellness centers” at each of these three locations, creating a campus-like feel to the future offices. These centers could potentially add primary care, outpatient diagnostics and other specialty services. 

Locations for the two future facilities have not been finalized.

“We are excited to bring this new model of care to our neighbors in Delaware County,”  ChristianaCare President and CEO Janice Nevin said in a prepared statement. “[These] neighborhood hospitals will enable us to provide access to high-quality care in a way that is sustainable and right-sized to meet the needs of local communities.  Our goal is to make access to health care easy and convenient for our Delco and Chester County neighbors.”

This is the first acute care partnership ChristianaCare has forged, though a spokesman told the Delaware Business Times it is structured similarly to the one with GoHealth Urgent Care to open walk-in care facilities in the state. In the past five years, ChristianaCare has turned its attention to acquiring neighboring hospitals in Maryland and exploring other possibilities in the Keystone State.

Last year, ChristianaCare announced that when it reopens the shuttered Jennersville Hospital  — now called ChristianaCare West Grove Campus  — it will include 10 emergency department beds and 10 inpatient beds.

Once the two other hospitals are opened, ChristianaCare will have 40 beds in its Pennsylvania facilities. The emergency departments of these hospitals will be equipped to treat routine ailments such as falls, injuries, heart attacks and strokes. The hospitals will also provide diagnostic capabilities, including ultrasound, CT imaging, X-ray and laboratory services.

Emerus Holdings is Texas-headquartered company that is a pioneer of “micro-hospitals,” or small-scale inpatient facilities that offer care to underserved communities at a lower cost than going to a freestanding emergency department. These facilities are also faster to build and can be tailor made for the neighborhood it’s built in.

Emeritus’s business model relies on partnering with large hospital systems to build and run the facilities, and to date it operates 42 acute care facilities across the county. Markets include Dallas, San Antonio, West Virginia and more. Local partners include Allegheny Health Network in western Pennsylvania and WellSpan Health in central Pennsylvania.

“We’re excited to help bring sustainable, compassionate, high-quality health care that will meet the needs of Pennsylvanians now and in the future,” Emerus CEO Vic Schmerbeck said. “We’re excited to help bring sustainable, compassionate, high-quality health care that will meet the needs of Pennsylvanians now and in the future.”

With a short drive over the border, ChristianaCare has focused on Pennsylvania for its expansion efforts, acknowledging that its close proximity has often drawn residents from southeastern Pennsylvania for care. In the past four years, ChristianaCare opened three primary care practices in that state that treat 22,000 residents.

Nevin had previously told the Delaware Business Times that she was not going to rule out future brick-and-mortar expansions, but that growth had to be about the community’s needs instead of the health care provider’s bottom line. 

“ChristianaCare is reimagining health care with a focus on delivering the right care, in the right place and time, with the right health care team involved for every patient,” Nevin said.

ChristianaCare forecasts that each hospital will treat about 15,000 patients per year, or a total of 45,000 patients altogether. That does not include the additional patients that will visit the health and wellness centers.

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