The Future Is Now

The patient experience is priority No. 1 at Beebe Healthcare, and the Sussex County healthcare system’s highly anticipated Specialty Surgical Hospital in Rehoboth Beach will make the experience even better for patients facing elective surgery, by making their stays shorter.

Maximum efficiency meets relaxing comfort when the main component of an ongoing $180 million master-facilities expansion plan, which includes improvements to the Lewes and Millville campuses, opens its doors in July 2022 at the corner of Route 24 and Warrington Road.

The $124 million project will blend the award-winning service headlining Beebe Healthcare’s century of rich tradition with state-of-the-art amenities Eastern Shore residents expect from their health providers — fully private rooms for patients, well-lit waiting areas for families, well-designed patient care stations and direct, easily accessible routes to and from parking areas and within the facility.

“We really wanted to create a platform for patients to have a great patient experience,” said Beebe Healthcare executive vice president and COO Rick Schaffner about people undergoing outpatient care and procedures requiring a short inpatient stay of three days or less at the surgical hospital. “We looked at the way surgery has evolved in our industry. A lot of it is shifting to shorter lengths of stay, very much elective and very much able to be scheduled in advance,” Schaffner added. “One of the things we wanted to do was create a platform for folks where they could have prescheduled elective surgical procedures in a very comfortable environment.”

When construction begins in April, a plan designed with the wishes of patients and families in mind will start to come to life, such as multimillion-dollar projects at Margaret H. Rollins Lewes Campus in Lewes and South Coastal Health Campus in Millville. The Patient Family Advisory Council, a committee of past Beebe Healthcare patients, played an integral role in the surgical hospital’s development phase.


“We don’t really like people to tell us everything they love about us, although that’s great,” Schaffner said. “We really challenged the folks on the Patient Family Advisory Council to tell us what they’d like to see done differently. I think they’ve been very, very pleased.”

Patients need to feel calm and confident from start to finish, whether it’s while facing a joint replacement performed by an orthopedic surgeon, hernia surgery handled by a general surgeon, urologic and gynecologic procedures, or procedures done with a surgical robot.

That positive experience begins “from the moment a patient walks in the door and goes throughout the organization, to include state-of-the-art techniques, procedures and skills,” said Dr. Kurt Wehberg, board-certified cardiothoracic surgeon with Beebe Cardiothoracic Surgery, who also serves as co-chief of cardiothoracic surgery, chief of robotics and vice president of clinical innovation.

The new surgical hospital, along with improvements on the Lewes and Millville campuses, Schaffner said, “gives us the opportunity to schedule and to manage on an emergent basis but also schedule more complex surgeries on our Savannah Road campus [in Lewes], because operating rooms will be created for those shorter length-of-stay patients and outpatients out on our Rehoboth campus.”

The $48 million South Coastal project underway in Millville, led by a free-standing ER department and new cancer center, are set to be finished in May 2020 and August 2020, respectively. Upgrades totaling $10 million to the cardiac services area, soon-to-be private patient rooms, main entrance and lobby at the Lewes campus, will begin in the next six months, with completion set for 2021.

Two smaller projects on the Lewes Campus include a hybrid operating room and electrophysiology laboratory. “We are building on a culture of excellence,” Dr. Wehberg said. “This is the standard we are setting for all of Beebe’s services, and we hope the work being done here in our community will soon disseminate to the entire state to promote innovation and the best standards for our patients.”

As with Beebe Healthcare’s other campuses, a highly skilled and dedicated collection of specialists, physicians, nurses and team members will reside within the Specialty Surgical Hospital to provide the highest-quality medical service to Eastern Shore residents.

“Innovation to me means thinking ahead and recognizing where a technological advancement will occur,” said Dr. Michael Sofronski, board-certified general surgeon and bariatric surgery specialist. Sofronski pointed to the surgeries that will be performed at the surgical hospital with the use of the da Vinci Xi Robotics System, which is touted as the most advanced and minimally invasive robotic surgical system.

Dr. Sofronski said he performs all of his general and bariatric surgeries robotically. Dr. Katrin Arnolds, board-certified obstetrician and gynecologist, said robotically assisted surgery “enhances a surgeon’s touch and eliminates unnecessary moves. It has the ability to do the smallest incisions and a wide range of motion only possible with this technology.”

The future is bright at Beebe Healthcare because, Dr. Sofronski said, “Beebe is a very forward-thinking organization, and that creativity and innovation establishes our health system as a leader in the delivery of care to our patients.”

Funding for the surgical hospital and other projects begins with Beebe Medical Foundation, which Schaffner said “has had great success in terms of folks in our community supporting our project.” Fundraising is highlighted by a Beebe Healthcare and county-record $10 million gift from Ma-Ran Foundation, which led to the Lewes campus being renamed in honor of Ma-Ran co-founder Margaret H. Rollins. The gift will pay to convert semi-private rooms to private in Lewes, and create a more direct path through the facility for patients and visitors.

The foundation will continue fundraising efforts to complete the project, which also includes operating capital and bond financing gained through the state. Meanwhile, excitement continues to build throughout the Beebe Healthcare community. “I am proud to be a member of the surgical team here at Beebe,” Dr. Arnolds said, “because we all work together to bring innovative thinking to our procedures.”

That innovation is leading to the creation of one of the most comprehensive and technologically advanced health systems on the Shore. Beebe Healthcare’s strategic vision for the future offers Sussex County residents and visitors peace of mind, because should they require care, access to state-of-the-art facilities, revolutionary surgical advancements and a network of highly-trained professionals awaits. The future is now.