Health board denies Beebe’s plans to build ER in Georgetown

By Patrick Jackson

DOVER – The state’s Health Resources Board has denied Beebe Healthcare’s plan to build a $23.7 million free-standing emergency room in Georgetown.

Hours prior to the August 15th board meeting, Bayhealth withdrew its own plans to build a competing ER facility in Milton.

Beebe, however, did not withdraw its request to build a roughly 14,400-square foot ER facility in Georgetown, though for now the plan is on hold.

“Given the committee’s recommendation, the decision was not unexpected,” said Mark Loukides, Beebe’s vice president of facilities and environment of care, who said the Lewes-based healthcare system hadn’t looked at pulling its request.

He noted that, while there are appeal options, Beebe has not decided whether it will use them. The advisory panel says Beebe had the financial wherewithal to pay for the center, but didn’t meet any of the other criteria needed to approve the center.

John Van Gorp, Bayhealth’s vice president of planning and business development, said the hospital system was moving ahead with its plans for a walk-in clinic, medical offices, and other facilities.

“We’re looking at the committee’s report and comments,” he said. “We may refile a request at a later time, but for now, we’re withdrawing the request.”

While there aren’t free-standing ER’s in Georgetown, the advisory panel’s report noted that Bayhealth’s new medical center in Milford is about 20 minutes away as is Nanticoke Memorial Hospital in Seaford.

That’s about the same distance from Beebe’s main campus in Lewes, although the panel’s report noted that during tourist season that time grows to about 50 minutes because U.S. 9 is two lanes and is often gridlocked headed east toward the beaches.

The report also looked at walk-in clinics, including clinics run by Bayhealth and Beebe, that have lowered costs by diverting patients who might be inclined to use an ER for their main health center, noting that adding new emergency facilities goes against the Carney administration’s efforts to contain health care costs.

Also, the panel said adding facilities could hurt the overall health care network in Sussex County. The additions could have cut into Nanticoke’s base of patients who can’t afford care in western Sussex County.

Both Beebe and Bayhealth are on the east side of the county. Tom Brown, a senior vice president at Nanticoke, said he thought the panel made the right call.

“I think they came to the right conclusions,” he said. “It could have an effect on western Sussex County.”

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