Beebe Healthcare is expanding in Delaware’s fastest growing county

In 1916, Dr. James Beebe Sr. and Dr. Richard Beebe opened the three-bed Beebe Hospital on property that their father owned in Lewes. The brothers, both graduates of Jefferson Medical College, wanted to bring modern medicine to an under served area.

Today, Beebe Healthcare remains rooted in Lewes with the 210-licensed-bed hospital. However, it also has five satellite campuses offering imaging, physical rehabilitation and lab services, as well as walk-in care centers. In addition, Beebe operates the Margaret H. Rollins School of Nursing. It’s also on the brink of an ambitious expansion on its main campus and in the southern tip of Sussex County.

Rick Schaffner is executive vice president and chief operating officer.

Q: Beebe is in a rapidly growing area. Of the 6,131 new residents in Delaware in 2016 compared to 2015, 4,629 were in the state’s southernmost county. How is Beebe creatively addressing that growth?

Rick Schaffner: We’ve embraced the IT approach to electronic medical records. But innovation isn’t just about technology. Beebe is community-based. We have a variety of satellite campuses, so folks aren’t forced to utilize one single location. We have a very well-developed and distributed network of ambulatory care.

The Beebe Medical Group, a separate company within our overall health system, is bringing primary care providers and specialists into the community. We have numerous primary care locations to serve the growing population. Just about anyone in Sussex County can get to one of our locations in 20 minutes or less. Every few years, we do a community needs analysis as to where people are getting their care and what services they need.

Q: What are the needs in southern Sussex County?

RS: For a number of years, we’ve heard from folks in the Bethany, Millville and Fenwick area that there’s a need for more than a walk-in center. They need 24-hour, seven-day, 365-days-a-year emergency services. We’re developing a freestanding emergency department in that area on the campus on Route 17 in Millville. The state of Delaware has been innovative in giving us that classification.

Our Tunnell Cancer Center on Route 24 in Rehoboth is growing, [but] it’s a hardship for patients from the south to travel that distance. We will create a second site on the [Route 17] campus for those patients.

Q: When it comes to the health care sector, how is Delaware different?

RS: All the CEOs of the hospitals form the board of the Delaware Health Care Association. EBrightHealth also works well. [EBright is an accountable care organization that includes participating health systems and providers throughout the state. The goal is to reduce unnecessary and costly emergency department visits and deliver coordinated care.]

While there’s competition, there’s also a great deal of cooperation.

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