Loving Care on the Cutting Edge

Bayhealth’s hospitals continue to change and grow.

Bayhealth CEO Dennis Klima (left) and
COO Terry Murphy visit the Center for
Women and Infants. The facility, which
opened in August 2005, features an
expanded neo-natal intensive care unit.

Photograph by Thom Thompson

Spend a little time with the folks at Bayhealth Medical Center if you’re looking for some inspiration to plan ahead. Population projections have Delaware’s number crossing the 1 million mark by the year 2030. Included are the 40,000 new people expected to show up in Kent County. As it seems to Bayhealth CEO and President Dennis Klima, the time to get ready is now.

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Four phases of expansion taking place at Kent General Hospital in Dover should appeal to Dover’s new and aging generations. “This whole effort is not only to serve the public better today, and not only better in the near future,” says Klima. “We’re making improvements that will allow this campus to continue to serve the public for the next 50 or even 100 years.”

The circumstances urging Bayhealth to take on a 10-year plan of expansion are typical of hospitals today, says Jerry Peters, who’s been busy lately as Bayhealth’s director of facilities planning and construction. Emergency rooms are crowded. The population is growing. Patients want access to all of their services in one location. (Plus, it would be nice if they had a place to park.)

The first phase added three floors to Kent General, doubling its height, between 2003 and 2005. The rooms with a view are dedicated to women’s services, named the Center for Women and Infants. Comprising two floors, the center features an expanded neo-natal intensive care unit and all private rooms for new moms.

Groundbreaking for Phase 2 is scheduled for this spring, with estimated completion in 2010 of a new emergency room and trauma department, as well as a comprehensive cancer center. Plans for phases 3 and 4 include adding seven more floors to the bed tower and building parking garage. Who knows if the Jetsons or their distant Delawarean cousins will arrive in 2062 as planned, but the icons of possibility might gravitate toward Bayhealth.

Whether we think first of the real world’s Massachusetts General in Boston, or Seattle Grace, a haven for the sick and sexy on “Grey’s Anatomy,” it’s no surprise to Bayhealth execs if it takes you a while to see a small town as a place for premier medical care. Yet, says Klima, “People who do their homework will know we have outstanding services in several areas.”

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It takes only a short Google search to find out that Bayhealth was rated best in Delaware for cardiac surgery by HealthGrades, a national independent research firm, in October. The announcement came just three years after the first cardiac surgery at Bayhealth was performed.

For cardiac surgery, Bayhealth is affiliated with the University of Pennsylvania, which enables Kent County residents to get world-class treatment at home instead of traveling to Philadelphia or Wilmington.

“I think they have managed to attract top-level people to a small community,” says Dr. Robert Q. Scacheri. “You don’t always get that combination. Traditionally, the best people go to the big cities, but that’s just not the case here.”

After graduating from medical school at Wake Forest University, Scacheri built his practice in Dover, his hometown. Now his patients take advantage of Bayhealth’s new post-partum rooms. They include sinks for baby baths, flat-screen televisions, refrigerators and a sleeper couch for new dads.

Consider that hospital volunteers regularly bake cookies in the kitchen just down the hall, and you can almost hear a tired new mom sigh, “It doesn’t get any better than this.”

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Susan Litchford, nurse manager of the cardiovascular surgical intensive care unit at Kent General Hospital, can vouch for Bayhealth’s unique atmosphere when it comes to treating patients whose hearts are vulnerable—in more ways than one.

“We’re a regional medical center, so we have very cutting-edge technology, procedures and physicians” says Litchford. “But we’re still kind of hanging on to that homemade, small town, I-know-everybody feeling. That proves to be a real comfort to patients.”

At the forefront of the architectural and interior design of the expansion projects was Bayhealth’s designation as a Planetree hospital. Planetree hospitals adhere to a philosophy of “patient-centered care in a healing environment.”

To see what they mean, check out Bayhealth’s family-oriented waiting rooms, which have waterfalls to calm nerves while loved ones are in surgery, as well as Internet access for sending updates during that 18-hour labor. In patient rooms, medical equipment is concealed by cabinets wherever possible.

“One of the things we try to do in the design process is to break down the traditional barriers between hospital staff and patients,” says Peters. In addition to central nursing stations, nurses at Kent General have the option of using work stations located just outside a patient’s room. On top of enhancing the sort of patient-staff relationship that’s good for everyone involved, it’s just plain convenient.

Scacheri was one of many members of the medical staff who contributed to the planning process for Phase 1.

“As a physician, when you move into the space, you see all the different things they thought of, and you know it entailed a very thorough analysis,” he says. “The nurses and patients hopefully would echo that as well.”

There’s a common practice of physicians, nurses and patients negotiating appropriate times for visitors for each patient, as opposed to having standard visiting hours. “Every patient is different,” says Klima, likening that aspect of the Planetree culture of care to parenting multiple children: It’s unconditional, but specific.

Bayhealth’s proud insistence on maintaining the Planetree approach through its foreseeable and expanding future appeals to and challenges the modern mindset. CEO Klima calls holistic hospital care “the green approach. It’s the human ecology approach.”

It’s idealistic. It’s Oprah. But really, don’t nice guys still finish last?

No, says Bayhealth. You don’t have to choose between offering an alternative to traditional hospital culture and keeping up with the rapid pace of mainstream medicine.

Peters says patient-centered care is a throwback to the old days of doctors making house calls while also being on the cutting edge.

For instance, there’s often some amount of insecurity for patients using the nurse’s call button for help. Who will respond? When? At Bayhealth, Peters says, “If you touch a button, your nurse is carrying a mobile phone, and you can speak to her directly.” Turns out you can use technology to make health care more personable, not less.

The people at Bayhealth, from the docs and nurses on the floor to the office execs, like executive vice president and COO Terry Murphy, give you the impression that Bayhealth is sitting on the edge of its seat waiting for the future that these four phases of expansion will bring.

“What we’re doing with the University of Pennsylvania, what we’re doing with cancer treatment, with women’s and children’s services—these things combined with the approach and culture we’re creating really is the best of both worlds,” Murphy says. “You’re getting excellent care based on national standards and the best in how care should be provided.”

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