The Delaware Health Resources Board has denied applications from both Bayhealth and Beebe Healthcare requesting approval to build new, free-standing emergency departments (EDs) within 8 miles of each other.
A day before the Friday, Aug. 16, denial was made public, Bayhealth — which had wanted to build an ED in the Harbeson area, had announced it would withdraw its application but continue with plans “to provide primary and specialty care, as well as diagnostic imaging in an ambulatory care center at the site on Route 9,” according to John Van Gorp, senior vice president for planning and business development.
Withdrawal of the request to build the ED was done “after careful consideration,” Van Gorp said.
Mark Loukides, vice president of facilities and environment of care at Beebe, said the denial disappointed hospital officials.
“We believe our proposal would bring emergency services to an area in need in central Sussex County. Beebe Healthcare first invested in growing services such as primary-care physician offices and walk-in care in Georgetown and the surrounding area. We made these investments to keep our neighbors, families and visitors from costly emergency department visits for non-emergencies.
“We remain committed to creating greater access to care in Georgetown and all of Sussex County, and we are grateful for the level of support this proposal had from the area,” Loukides said.
Both organizations have the right to appeal the denials.
Bayhealth was hoping to put a 35,000-square-foot complex — including doctors’ offices with extended hours and that accept walk-ins — at Route 9 and Hudson Road in Harbeson, Van Gorp had told the Coastal Point before the denial was announced. It would have opened in 2021 and cost $15.5 million to $17.2 million.
Beebe’s plan was to construct a 14,000-square-foot, $20 million freestanding ED on Route 404 in Georgetown, about 7 miles from Bayhealth’s proposed site.
It was projected that 63 people, including doctors, would have been hired, and the ED would have opened in the summer of 2021.
Beebe is already building a free-standing ED in Millville. Costing $48 million, it is expected to open in January 2020, offering services including CAT scans, ultrasound and imaging.
Certain healthcare facilities and projects that are reviewable through a certificate of public review must be approved by the State, including emergency departments.
The Health Resources Board assigned three committee members to review the two requests. That subcommittee had recommended denying the applications — largely because Gov. John Carney has championed cutting healthcare costs by lessening ED use, unless it is absolutely necessary.
“Typically, the board does take the advice of the smaller committee,” Van Gorp said.
“One concern is if you have an additional free-standing ER, it will allow people to use it more. If they are using it more, then there will be more ER visits. That drives up the cost of care. The State is a payer for health services. They are the largest employer in the state and oversee the Medicaid program. So they are concerned about the cost of care, as are we. But we’re doing everything we can to work with them to control cost and utilization,” Van Gorp explained.
“How do you improve access to services to a community? When we look at that area, there are significant issues on Route 9, especially as you approach Route 1. In-season, it is very difficult to get access to Beebe’s emergency department. There is not a lot of healthcare” between Route 1 and Georgetown.
By Susan Canfora