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New emergency departments proposed for Sussex may be denied by state

Delaware Public Media

Bayhealth and Beebe Healthcare are each proposing to build a new freestanding emergency department in the heart of Sussex County, but the state seems poised to turn them both down.

Beebe wants to build its new facility across from Delaware Tech’s Georgetown campus near a cluster of other health services. Bayhealth has its spot picked out on Route 9 just east of Harbeson.

Each health system says it has identified a need for emergency services in the area, citing congested traffic and population growth. Both applications also mention recruiting primary care physicians to the area. Sussex County has a ratio of more than 2,000 patients per primary care physician qualifying it as a federally designated shortage area, according to a recent Delaware Department of Health and Social Services (DHSS) and University of Delaware study.

But a review committee for Delaware’s Health Resources Board recommends the state deny both applications. It says adding more emergency departments is not aligned with Gov. Carney’s plan to cut healthcare costs in Delaware by reducing unnecessary use of emergency departments in favor of Walk in Centers and Urgent Care Centers.

John Van Gorp is Bayhealth’s Senior Vice President of Planning and Business Development. He argues Bayhealth’s proposed facility would improve access to care in the fastest growing region of the state.

“We’re just looking to provide access to services that are needed and we’re hoping that the Health Resources Board sees that,” said Van Gorp. “We’re not trying to jack up utilization of emergency room services, but we do want to provide those level of services for that community that needs it.”

The committee also says it’s concerned adding emergency departments in the proposed areas could negatively impact neighboring Nanticoke hospital, which almost exclusively cares for Medicare and Medicaid patients and recently signed a shared-risk contract with the state to try to drive down the cost of care.  

Alex Sydnor is Beebe Healthcare’s Vice President External Affairs and Chief Strategy Officer. He points out not all patients in the area use Nanticoke for emergency services.

“We would certainly anticipate some of the patients in Georgetown who drive to Beebe for care, for emergency care, would no longer have to, and that would certainly be true for patients who would drive west to Nanticoke or north to Bayhealth,” said Sydnor. “So we do think we would provide better care for folks in Georgetown by positioning those services in the center of the county.”

The Health Resources Board could potentially deny or approve both plans, or it could deny one and approve the other. The board is set to make a final decision on the matter later this month.

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