Conflicts cause health board to reset hearing

By Patrick Jackson

Bayhealth and Beebe Healthcare were supposed to get a state panel’s verdict on their plans for a free-standing emergency room in the Georgetown area.

But because the 15-member Delaware Health Resources Board couldn’t reach a conflict-free quorum, the hearing has been postponed until 2:30 p.m. August 15.

It’s annoying, says John Van Gorp, Bayhealth’s vice president of planning and business development, but not entirely unexpected.

It can be very difficult to get a quorum, especially in the summer,” he said. “If we can get a meeting in August, it will be good.”

When lawmakers went home for summer break on July 1, legislation modestly streamlining the board was left on the table.

West Dover Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Lockman’s Senate Bill 108 would cut membership from 15 to 11 members and make other structural changes to the board.

Van Gorp said he didn’t have comments on the proposal, deferring to the Delaware Healthcare Association, which lobbies for the state’s hospitals at Legislative Hall.

Wayne Smith, the association’s president and CEO, said some change would be welcome because this isn’t the first time that board inaction has delayed projects. But he didn’t weigh in on the specifics of Lockman’s proposal.

When they put something off, it’s unfair,” Smith said. “It can be unfair to patients. It can be unfair to the institutions and it’s unfair to the members who were able to arrange their schedules to attend the meeting “

In May, an advisory panel recommended against conflicting plans from Bayhealth and Beebe to place free-standing emergency rooms in the Georgetown area.

However, the final decision rests with the board, which isn’t bound to adhere to the recommendation.

The hospitals say the facilities are needed because of increased congestion in Sussex County that makes timely transportation to one of the county’s hospitals more challenging.

The delays are a nuisance,” Van Gorp said. “But we can live with them.”

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