by Terry Rogers
On Tuesday, February 5, 2019, at around 7 AM, Al Lakomyj of Dover departed Milford Memorial Hospital’s Clarke Avenue campus. He travelled by Carlisle Fire Company ambulance to the front door of the new Bayhealth Sussex Campus about ten minutes later, becoming the first inpatient rehabilitation patient to enter the new facility. Lakomyj held the scissors as the ribbon was cut to signify the grand opening of a $315 million facility.
“The move was executed very well,” Lakomyj said before being loaded into the ambulance. “I am looking forward to the new location. This entire process has been more or less perfect and I think this hospital will be a big boost to this area. It is a wonderful thing to have.”
Lakomyj’s wife, Alice, explained that her husband had heart surgery and coded 30 seconds afterwards. His cardiac surgeon opened his chest in his hospital bed at Kent General Hospital and saved him.
“Since being transferred to the rehab center in Milford, he has been making great progress,” Mrs. Lakomyj said. “Being asked to be the first patient in the new hospital has been an honor. My husband is alive today because of Bayhealth. I can tell you he can’t wait to get his hands on a bike so he can get out of the hospital, though.”
Terry Murphy, CEO and President of Bayhealth was thrilled at the way the entire move was executed. The move actually began over the weekend when some departments transferred to the new hospital ahead of the official grand opening. Intensive care patients were moved on Saturday, February 2 as their needs were more critical than others. Overall, 72 patients were moved into the new facility on Tuesday. The Emergency Department opened at the new location at 2 AM on Tuesday for walk-in patients. Ambulance delivery to the new ED began later on Tuesday and the Clarke Avenue facility was be officially closed by the end of the day.
“We will hold a “Lights Out” ceremony tonight to recognize the care given to patients at the old location,” Murphy said. “This entire day has been exciting but it is also bittersweet. As I walked the halls of the Clarke Avenue building around midnight, I could not help but feel emotional thinking about the people who were cared for there, staff that has come and gone. It is sad but we are very excited for what we have created here.”
The new hospital has 128 beds, roughly the same as the Clarke Avenue location. However, the building is designed for growth with what Murphy called “shelled-in space” that will allow Bayhealth to quickly add rooms as necessary. The entire campus was designed to meet the growing population of Sussex County.
“There is a lot happening up and down the state,” Murphy said. “When we decided to build a new hospital, we looked at probably 15 different sites. We landed on this one due to its proximity to Route 1 where we believe much of the expansion will be in Sussex County. It also had enough property that we could expand over time.”
In addition to the new hospital building, Nemours is beginning construction on a pediatric office building that will provide advanced pediatric services that had previously only been available in New Castle County.
“Having Nemours on this campus will be fantastic,” Dr. Julianne Wysocki, Medical Director of the Sussex Emergency Department, said. “We will have the capability to treat pediatric issues here and not require parents to drive two hours to Wilmington to get treatment.”
Dr. Wysocki explained that the plan to move the Emergency Department began quite some time ago and the staff attempted to address any issue that could develop. According to Dr. Wysocki, the entire process went flawlessly and they were ready to be a full-service ED by the end of the day. The new Emergency Department has 30 beds, all in rooms with doors to provide additional patient privacy. There are also chair stretchers for less serious illnesses and injuries in another area of the department.
“We have cardiac monitors in all the rooms,” Dr. Wysocki explained. “We are also much closer to diagnostic imaging, there are lifts in every room and have a brand new ultrasound machine. The ultrasound will make it much easier to diagnose bedside. The trauma rooms are much larger and are located directly next to the ambulance bay as well as the doctor station. All the equipment we need for a trauma case is already in the room so there is no need to run to a supply closet down the hall.” The ambulance entrance is in a different location of the Emergency Department than the walk-in entrance as well.
Once the hospital officially closes on Clarke Avenue, Murphy explained that they will begin working closely with Nationwide Health Services who purchased the building. Nationwide plans to turn a portion of the hospital building into skilled nursing care, creating a facility similar to those the company owns in New Castle. Nationwide is also creating a Wellness Village in the area surrounding the old hospital.
“I must express my sincere gratitude to the people I work with who orchestrated this move,” Murphy said. “It has gone very smoothly and that is all because of their hard work and dedication. This hospital will be special to the residents of Sussex County for many years to come.”
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