Nemours Celebrates Topping Off Ceremony


by Terry Rogers



The new Bayhealth Sussex Campus was the site of another momentous celebration when the final steel beam was placed on the Nemours/Bayhealth Medical Office Building on Wednesday, May 22. The beam, signed by dignitaries, hospital and Nemours staff as well as visitors, symbolized the end of the first phase of construction on the building which is scheduled to open in early 2020.

“When we announced we were building a hospital and outpatient center on the Sussex health campus, we used the phrase ‘more than a hospital’ quite often,” Terry Murphy, CEO of Bayhealth, said. “We really saw this 169-acre property as an opportunity to bring comprehensive healthcare to the communities that we serve. Today is an exciting day for Bayhealth as we take the next exciting step in realizing that vision to expand the Bayhealth Sussex Camus with our first partner, Nemours Children’s Health Systems.”

Murphy explained that, as he traveled around the state, the one thing he heard was that there was a need for more physicians in the area. The new building will have Nemours located on the entire first floor with the second and third floors used for Bayhealth physicians. Murphy explained that the vision for the new site began four or five years ago when he got a call from Dr. Roy Proujansky, CEO of Nemours Children’s Health System, Delaware Valley Operation. Murphy mentioned that his mother, who raised seven children, instilled in him an understanding that “who you associate with says a lot about you,” explaining that he felt Bayhealth’s partnering with Nemours was a prime example of his mother’s teaching.

“We have a comfortable relationship between our organizations,” Proujansky said. “It just makes this project a complete and total pleasure. Nemours has been in this state for about 80 years and as we’ve grown and developed, we have been more and more thoughtful about how we help the children and some seniors. It is a challenge if a child needs pediatric specialty care, especially as far as access. It is a bit of a distance from here to Wilmington.”

Proujansky explained that when Nemours initially decided to expand into the downstate area, they initially looked at Dover. When they began looking at the demographics, however, they discovered that the need was far greater in Northern Sussex County. He made the call to Murphy and the two organizations began a partnership that will culminate with the new building.

“It is very exciting and we have waited a long time for this,” Valerie Biggs, the mother of special needs children who need Nemours services, said. “The growth here in Sussex County has been great and the need for these offices that is finally coming is tremendous, especially for families like mine who have children with special needs. My husband and I have adopted eight children, most of them with special needs. We moved to Milton from New Jersey in 2002 so that our three sons with special needs could attend the Sussex Consortium, thinking that was the big draw. Little did we know the special journey we were headed on with Nemours.”

According to Biggs, the physicians, nurses and staff at Nemours have become family. She and her husband adopted five more children after they moved to Milton.

“They calmed our fears, they held us when we cried,” Biggs said. “From late night phone calls from our son’s cardiologist to say his blood work was okay, that he was stable to being able to text and talk to our pediatrician, Dr. Bagas, when she was away because my son was in ICU with pneumonia and she was as worried as we were. We travel about 150 miles round trip and have done so too many times to count over the years. We will be able to drive 20 minutes now rather than an hour and a half. Even our trips to the pediatrician will be cut by 10 minutes. Ten minutes does not sound like much but when you are juggling a lot of kids and school and doctors, it is a lot. I love that my son, who has hyperplastic left heart syndrome, can continue to be seen by cardiology until he is 40. I would love to see that with other departments so children can continue the same excellent care as adults.”

Topping off ceremonies have their roots in the  Scandinavian culture where a tree was placed above a new building, often with flags or streamers. Still common in the United Kingdom and other countries, the last beam of a building is painted white and signed by all workers as well as well-wishers, a practice that continued with the Bayhealth building and now the Nemours building. When the beam was raised for the Nemours building, an evergreen tree and an American flag was attached to the top.

“In the 1920s workers placed an American flag as a symbol of patriotism and pride in the work they had done,” Alice Bavis-Rousch, Southern Region Strategy and Brand Program Manager at Bayhealth, said. “Today marks the completion of the steel portion of this project. It is also a recognition and big thank you to the many construction workers who completed this portion safely.”