Nationwide Healthcare Services, residents meet to discuss plans in Milford

Nationwide Healthcare Services, residents meet to discuss plans in Milford
Milford Chronicle
June 29, 2017
by Jennifer Antonik

As plans unfold for Bayhealth’s new medical campus in southeast Milford, city council member Lisa Ingram Peel arranged a meeting between Ward 2 residents and Nationwide Healthcare Services to learn of updates and express concerns.

Attendees spilled out into the next room as seats quickly filled up inside the current Bayhealth Milford Memorial Hospital Boardroom before the meeting began Tuesday, June 20.

Ms. Peel called the gathering an “initial conversation” regarding the facility that is “in our backyards.”

Alan Levine, former director of the Delaware Economic Development Office, currently represents Nationwide Healthcare Services and recognized people around the room who have “played a big part in the transition of Milford Memorial that will be the Milford Wellness Village,” including Milford Mayor Bryan Shupe, Ms. Peel, Council member James Burk and City Planner Rob Pierce.

“I think Milford is really going places and I have to give a lot of that credit to the mayor whom I’ve known since he was a lot younger than he is now,” he joked.

Mr. Levine went on to describe the “cradle to grave” services to hopefully be provided such as a nursing home, daycare, skilled nursing services, small pharmacy primarily for the nursing home and complementary businesses such as a hair salon, which, he added, some believe to be therapeutic.

An assisted living component was also originally listed as a goal for the facility when Bayhealth announced the purchase of the building by Nationwide Healthcare Services in March. However, Mr. Levine said Tuesday night that it is not a consideration “at this moment.”

Plans, Nationwide Healthcare Services’ CEO Meir Gelley added, continue to evolve as Bayhealth progresses toward moving into its new facility in 2019.

The CEO said he hopes to include an Alzheimer’s unit, as well. Nationwide Healthcare Services’ facility in Hockessin currently hosts a small 16-bed Alzheimer’s unit while another facility run by the company offers a larger 54-bed unit. He says more than 100 beds are expected for the nursing home itself.

“The state has to approve the number of beds. We are requesting 150 beds; we think that will be cut. We think this area can support that. With Sussex County’s population, and aging population, there is the need,” Mr. Levine said.

The nursing home will only use about a fifth of the building while the remaining space will be used by other enterprises.

“The idea is to bring into this building a long-term care facility, anything which is post-acute care, anything the new hospital cannot do, won’t do,” Mr. Gelley said. “There’s nothing written in stone. We’re developing it as we go along. As it started, it is not today.”

According to Mr. Levine, Dentsply-Sirona will occupy 30,000 sq. ft. of the current rehabilitation facility with the exception of the gym which will remain open to the public. An adult daycare program run by Saint Francis Healthcare will use 30,000 sq. ft. near the current radiology unit, medical services will be hosted in 10,000 sq. ft. of the front of the building and negotiations are in the works for another 10,000 sq. ft.

The meeting between Nationwide Healthcare Services and Ward 2 residents also highlighted land located near the current walk-in clinic next to Bayhealth’s Milford Memorial Hospital as residents asked questions and voiced concerns.

“Ultimately, something is going to go there whether it’s going to be townhomes, single-family homes, apartments… Something will go there. It’s land and something that can be developed. It’s not something Meir wants to maintain,” Mr. Levine said. “The homes, quite frankly, are secondary. It’s not their primary focus and that’s why they need to turn it over to someone else.”

In anticipation of selling the land slated for homes, Nationwide Healthcare Services has requested the city change the zoning to R-3 which would allow for garden or townhomes.

They added a caveat to the sale would be included: it must be a 55 and older community.

Should a developer move in a different direction and choose to build cottages or patio homes for seniors instead of townhomes or apartments, a zoning change would not be required, Mr. Pierce said while responding to a question from residents.

Mr. Gelley explored the benefits of a 55 and over housing area with residents, including additional property and school taxes as no one currently occupies the land in question and homes in such communities are typically better maintained, cause less traffic and are less expensive for the town, he said.

Mayor Shupe helped wrap up the meeting Tuesday night once residents finished speaking with Mr. Gelley and Mr. Levine.

“One of the priorities for tonight is obviously making sure the residents are a part of this conversation. Bayhealth has done a wonderful job at that,” he said.