On Wednesday, July 5, United States Senator Tom Carper visited the new site of the Bayhealth Sussex Campus which will open in early 2019. Senator Carper toured the new facility with local legislators, healthcare representatives and Bayhealth administration. Bayhealth CEO, Terry Murphy, led the tour, describing where each area of the new hospital would be located.
“The first floor of the expansion is the Emergency Department and Trauma Center,” Mr. Murphy explained. “All outpatient testing will also be on the first floor. The second floor will house operating rooms and intensive care units while the third floor is reserved for labor and delivery. The Fourth floor is an acute rehab center while the fifth and sixth floor will be acute care and surgical rooms. All rooms will be private.”
Senator Carper asked if there was a certain order to the layout of the hospital and Mr. Murphy explained that the hospital engaged people with expertise in how people move through the spaces and that they recommended the total engineering of the hospital layout.
After the tour, Mr. Murphy along with Wayne Smith, President of the Delaware Health Care Association and Senator Carper discussed healthcare legislation that is currently pending in the United States Senate. “One of the things that is special about Delaware is that all the hospital systems in the state are not-for-profit hospitals and health systems,” Mr. Murphy explained. “What this means is that we work for the community. As a community asset, we are hoping to be here not just for the next five or ten years, but for generations to come. The jobs and materials used on the site, more than 50 percent of the folks working on the project and the materials used come from Delaware-based companies.” Mr. Murphy used the planned Emergency Department as an example of Bayhealth’s commitment to the community.
Mr. Murphy stated that the hospital is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days per year to serve anyone who needs help, whether it is day or night. He said that, in his eyes, the staff of the hospital should wear capes as they not only take care of anyone that comes into the hospital who needs help, but can be looked at as heroes. Mr. Murphy pointed out that hospitals are the backbone of the healthcare safety net in the United States and that the bill currently under consideration in the Senate would considerably reduce funding in the form of Medicare reductions.
“Medicare provides necessary medical needs to our must vulnerable in society,” Mr. Murphy said. “The elderly, the disabled and children. I recently read that Delaware could experience cuts of $350 million to that program. My one message today is that the coverage be provided.” Mr. Smith agreed with Mr. Murphy’s assessment.
Mr. Smith explained that there was a challenge when it came to healthcare in Delaware as statistics show the population to be older and heavier. He also said that there is a higher incidence of smoking in Delaware and that there is a higher incidence of diabetes than other states. He also pointed out that Delaware is unique in that they are one of only three states that do not rely on small, critical-access hospitals and that every Delawarean has a generalized acute care center nearby.
“Almost every other state has at least one publicly-funded, general acute hospital to take care of the needs of the poor or a charity fund to compensate those costs. Some states have both,” Mr. Smith said. “Delaware has neither. We are the safety net. We are all non-profits. We see and treat the poor of Delaware. Access to care requires insuring access to healthcare. Access to care also requires adequate insurance coverage in place to insure our excellent hospitals and their components are available in the future.” Mr. Smith used several statistics to demonstrate how important healthcare reform has been since 2010 and how the pending bill could impact Delaware’s healthcare industry.
According to Mr. Smith, over 30,000 people in Delaware have access to insurance through the federally funded marketplace that did not exist prior to the passage of the Affordable Care Act. If the pending law is passed, Mr. Smith said that 34,300 fewer Delawareans would be insured and that between 2018 and 2026, Delaware Medicaid funds could be reduced by over $1 billion. He also pointed out that federal reductions for marketplace support could go higher than $193 million.
Senator Carper said that when he was Governor of Delaware, he looked at Medicaid as something that benefitted pregnant women and children. “That’s what it was then, a program for pregnant women and children,” Senator Carper said. “The ACA changed all of that. Today, almost two-thirds of the money spent on Medicaid is on our parents, our grandparents. Not just pregnant women and children as it used to be. The plan approved by the House and proposed by the Senate would reduce Medicaid spending by $800 billion over the next ten years and put people very much at risk. We also have two million veterans on the program, so you are talking about veteran’s homes as well.”
Senator Carper said that the talk on Capitol Hill from Republicans who are not on board with the current bill is that they will need to work with Democrats in order to repair the ACA, which even many Democrats admit is flawed. Senator Carper said that what is being lost in the discussion about healthcare is value.
“The question needs to be how do we get better healthcare outcomes for the same amount or less money?” Senator Carper said. “Just after his election, Donald Trump said that we want better healthcare coverage. We want to have it more affordable. And we want to have it for everybody. The legislation that has passed the House and is pending in the Senate doesn’t do any of these things. It takes away care from those that need it and reduces taxes for those who can afford to pay them. My hope is that cooler heads will prevail. I am calling on my Republican colleagues to try to fix the things in the ACA that need to be fixed and preserve parts of the act that are working.”
Senator Carper used a quote from Mark Twain to describe what Congress really needed to do. “Mark Twain said ‘When in doubt, tell the truth. When you do, you will confound your enemies and amaze your friends,’” Senator Carper said. “In the end, what we should do is work together and get things done. We will confound our enemies and amaze our friends. Let’s do that.”
Sign up for you free digital subscription of The Weekly Review, delivered directly to your email every Tuesday morning. A quick cover-to-cover read to catch up on the news of the week and experience great stories about our local communities. Sign up for your free email subscription below.