State approval opens door for Milford skilled nursing center
With the Delaware Health Resources Board confirming what Nationwide Healthcare Services has known all along, a new skilled nursing and rehabilitation center on the site of the Bayhealth Milford Memorial complex is a step closer to reality.
The state recently cleared the way for Nationwide to build a 150-bed skilled nursing center on the site of the soon-to-be-vacated Bayhealth Milford Memorial complex and 10 adjacent acres.
At the time Nationwide filed the Certificate of Public Review application, the state, via the Health Resources Board, had determined there was a need for 224 additional skilled care beds in Sussex County.
After it filed the application, more current projections were adopted, which identified a 229-bed shortage for Sussex County.
There was also evidence submitted by Bayhealth Hospital that beds were needed for placement from both their facilities in Dover and Milford and there was feedback from the local community that a new facility was needed.
The Delaware Health Resources Board also noted that admissions to private nursing homes in Sussex County increased 59.2 percent from 2006-2016 and that the population has grown rapidly in recent years and will continue to grow.
“The consensus [by the Delaware Health Resources Board] and the feedback we’ve received from the state and the community in outreach efforts confirm the need for a high-quality skilled nursing center in Milford,” said Nationwide CEO Meir Gelley. “That is exactly what we will bring to the region.”
Nationwide is acquiring the 22-acre parcel and surrounding buildings from Bayhealth, which is moving in phases to a new campus within the next year. Closing on the property sale from Bayhealth to Nationwide is scheduled for January 2019, with construction beginning immediately after.
Gelley said Nationwide officials have spent the past year talking with members of the community on best ideas for the kinds of services to offer at the new facility. He said plans for the village’s layout and service placement are designed to maximize the customer experience.
The Milford location will be developed as a wellness village, coordinating a mix of services that will address the health and well-being of area residents of all ages and income levels.
Gelley said the first phase of the project will include 72 beds in the skilled nursing center, and once those are filled and there is demand for the others, more wings will be added, eventually bringing the facility to its 150-bed capacity.
“It would be costly to staff for 150 beds when all won’t be filled immediately,” he said. “We plan to move forward in phases and hire staff accordingly. We know this will create a lot of jobs in the Milford area.”
In addition to integrated health services, the site will feature education and housing components and services to the city of Milford and Kent and Sussex counties.
Nationwide operates two other nursing centers in Delaware – the Regal Heights Healthcare and Rehabilitation Center in Hockessin and the Regency Healthcare & Rehabilitation Center in Wilmington – as well as four more in Pennsylvania.
Gelley said partners and tenants will be selected based on the area of need in the new Milford facility. They will be physically located within the village, he said.
Some of the services that will be offered in the proposed West Clarke Avenue village include a nursing home, senior independent living center, primary care, chronic disease management and social services among others.
Gelley said that Nationwide is in the final stages of signing four or five key entities to be a part of the wellness village, but said he could not divulge the names during the negotiation period.
“After those key entities are on board, a few more will follow and fill in the empty spaces,” he said.
Bayhealth President and Chief Executive Officer Terry Murphy said the agreement follows through on a commitment Bayhealth made in November 2014 to find a buyer that could repurpose the property into a viable community resource after Bayhealth moves to its new health campus in early 2019.
“Our community outreach revealed overwhelming support for a redevelopment plan that focuses on senior housing, skilled nursing care, assisted living and other healthcare-related services, all with the hope of attracting businesses that will create jobs for our community and provide continuity with our new health campus project,” Murphy said during the announcement last March.
Murphy, along with Milford Mayor Bryan Shupe, talked then about the redevelopment project, which they said would result in capital investments of more than $20 million, the creation of more than 300 full-time jobs and hundreds of temporary construction jobs.
“Bayhealth has proven its commitment to the Milford community as redevelopment of the Clark Avenue facility continues to be a priority,” Shupe said. “This sets the pace for economic development in Milford. And it allows us to preserve buildings and bring in new jobs.”
Reach Jerry Smith at email@example.com.