County council briefed on Beebe’s Lewes campus expansion

GEORGETOWN — As Sussex County’s population continues to grow and age, Beebe Healthcare in turn plans grow to meet increased needs.

A five-story wing is a featured attraction in an estimated $195 million expansion of the existing Beebe Healthcare complex on Savannah Road in Lewes.

Jeff Fried, Beebe’s CEO and president, and Chief Operating Officer Richard Schaffner outlined expansion plans at the July 19 Sussex County Council meeting.

27 Beebe schaffner plans to council

Beebe Healthcare’s chief operating officer Richard Schaffner outlines Beebe’s expansion plans for its Lewes campus.

“As the county grows Beebe continues to look at opportunities to grow as well to better serve our community,” said Mr. Fried. “With many of the changes that have come along recently due to the Affordable Care Act, and initiatives on the provider’s side to really change the way care is delivered, a lot of our focus today is trying to keep people out of the hospital and out of our emergency department.”

“But despite that we can’t ignore the fact that there continues to be a great deal of growth in the county, and so we need to prepare ourselves to handle that growth for a number of years to come,” said Mr. Fried. “We looked to expand the number of in-patient beds at our Lewes campus. We determined that as part of that expansion to row, we need to offer more private rooms. We need to make our campus more user-friendly for our patients and our staff. We want to take the opportunity to look at how we can improve some of the traffic patterns on the campus within our facility to make it easier for staff and for patients to get around. And of course we have a need to make sure that we have increased parking as we continue to grow at the Lewes site.”

Expanding the current hospital campus in Lewes won out over several other options. Building a new facility was one. Another was beginning with a smaller hospital and expanding from there. Both were shelved in part due in part to excessive cost.

“We have looked at different options. We looked at building a brand new hospital. Out on Rt. 24; we have 20 acres,” Mr. Fried said. “But the cost of doing so would be about $150 million more than what it would cost to do what we are going to do on the main campus; and that is a lot of money.”

‘And even if somebody wrote us a check for $350 million I am not sure we’d want to invest $350 million in in-patient facilities when a lot more care is going to be delivered outside the hospital,” said Mr. Fried. “We really tried to look at the most efficient way to expand on the in-patient side but also make sure we are continuing to do the kinds of things that we are doing to push more people and more procedures and care out to the out-patient side. When we looked at all of the possibilities, expanding the Lewes campus really makes the most sense. That will allow us to continue to grow in your community. So our final option is to expand.”

The project includes a five-story patient tower and a clinical building/surgery pavilion. It will create 84 additional private rooms, upping the hospital’s total bed count to 231. Of that, there would be 197 potential private rooms.

Demolition of the former convalescence center will pave the way for 135 additional parking spaces.

Next to traffic in Lewes the “next complaint I get is parking,” Mr. Schaffner said.

Expansion around the existing Shaw Building with a clinical procedural area will increase operating rooms, interventional cardiology space and some out-patient procedural areas, Mr. Schaffner said. There will also be shell space for room to grow.

A historic portion of the current campus will be showcased; Beebe this year is celebrating its 100th year of service.

“Again, we think (it is) a very attractive option. It both honors the history of Lewes as well as being able to demonstrate I think the very modern healthcare system that we have become,” said Mr. Schaffner.

Beebe has been before the city’s building and zoning boards for exception waivers.

“We’re really not going to increase our height any more than our existing Lynch/ Rollins complex,” said Mr. Schaffner.

If everything goes well in terms of fundraising, planning and the need to issue some debt to support this project “we hope to be able to put a shovel into the ground somewhere around the first of January,” Mr. Fried said.

County councilwoman Joan Deaver, R-Lewes, was hoping for a new facility on Rt. 24.

“I understand. It’s wonderful to do this in-town,” said Ms. Deaver. “There is nothing like the Shaw Building. There is so much history there. Of course I am out there by (Rt.) 24. I want it out there. But if it is going to cost that much more I certainly can understand your decision.”

News Editor Glenn Rolfe can be reached at

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