AGH expanding to meet updated community needs

Atlantic General Hospital is keeping its finger on the pulse of the area’s health, and as they embark on a major expansion, those plans aim to meet the area’s changing health needs. The Sussex County Council received its annual update from AGH representatives at its weekly meeting on March 14, detailing how those needs have changed and what they are doing to meet them.

Michael Franklin, president and CEO of AGH said the hospital is required to do a community health assessment every three years (the last having been done in 2016), through which they found priority areas to be access to health services, cancer, respiratory disease and smoking, nutrition, physical activity and weight, diabetes, heart disease and stroke, opioid abuse, and arthritis, osteoporosis and chronic back pain.

Franklin said that the last time an assessment was made, key issues today, including clinical health and opioid abuse, were not as prominent.

“You can see how what’s happening in the community, what’s happening in the media, what’s happening in public health areas are directly being felt by the people in our community,” he said.

Franklin said the hospital’s mission is to create a coordinated care delivery system that will provide access to quality care, personalized service and education to improve individual and community health.

With that in mind, Franklin noted a number of doctors have be placed around southern Sussex County, as well as in Worcester County in Maryland, where the hospital is based, to give patients better access to primary and specialty care.

AGH is currently in the middle of a $10 million capital campaign, part of a $35 million expansion of care delivery throughout the region.

“We’re on time and on budget with the construction project on campus,” he said of the John H. Burbage Jr. Regional Cancer Care Center.

The center, currently under construction, will have 18,000 square feet of space located on the corner of Routes 113 and 246 in Berlin, Md. The hospital is working with the University of Maryland Marlene and Stewart Greenebaum Cancer Center to coordinate care and treatment.

“We’re creating these types of relationships to integrate technology and changes in technology to provide better access,” said Franklin.

The expansion will also include a comprehensive women’s health center, modernizing patient care areas, renovating surgical facilities, and expanding emergency and outpatient services.

He noted that ER visits at the hospital from Delaware residents and visitors have increased almost 12 percent since 2014, with 18 percent of its total visits being from residents of and visitors to Sussex County. The hospital employs more than 850 local residents, with a payroll of more than $38 million.

Franklin added that the hospital gives more than $12 million in free healthcare to the community on an annual basis.