CAPE MAY COURT HOUSE — With a multimillion-dollar expansion underway for a new out-patient surgery center and a new partnership with Cooper University Hospital, the officials at Cape Regional Health System are feeling pretty good.
Crews broke ground in June for the newest project, an ambulatory service center that will add 19,000 square feet, including four new operating suites, and dramatically change the look of the hospital as seen from the Garden State Parkway. Planned to open for the summer of 2020, the $15 million expansion is designed for out-patient procedures.
There has been a major shift toward ambulatory care centers, with far fewer patients admitted overnight, according to Dr. Andrea McCoy, the hospital’s chief medical officer.
“Now we are doing many procedures with minimally invasive and laparoscopic methods,” she said. Patients would rather avoid a hospital stay, she said. “80% to 85% of our surgical procedures are patients who come in and go home the same day.”
According to information from Cape Regional, the new surgery center will include reception and pre-op areas, operating suites and areas for post-op recovery, along with dedicated parking. Joanne Carrocino, the president and CEO of Cape Regional, described it as a significant milestone.
“We’ve had other expansions of the facility off-site,” she said, including the recent Urgent Care centers in Rio Grande and Seaville. “This is the first major expansion on our campus in a long time.”
Helping to fund that work will be a $2 million donation from Thomas Brodesser Jr., of Cape May, made in the name of his late wife. In her honor, the new center will be the Claire C. Brodesser Surgery Center.
The capital campaign for the expansion continues. Carrocino said the hospital has about $6 million in gifts and pledges toward the project so far.
Brodesser’s gift was announced Friday, Aug. 9.
Days later, the hospital announced a critical care partnership with Cooper University Hospital, under which Cooper physicians will work with the critical care staff in Cape May Court House.
For most of its history, the hospital was Burdette Tomlin Memorial Hospital, named for the Upper Township businessman who pledged $25,000 toward the construction of the first hospital in the county. The money was conditional, given only if a matching amount was raised. Even with that head start, it took about a decade before Burdette Tomlin Memorial Hospital opened in 1950, with fundraising severely slowed by World War II.
Tomlin died in 1942.
Almost immediately after the grand opening, another fundraising effort began to expand the small hospital, what would become the first of several expansions over the decades.
The name change to Cape Regional Medical Center took place in 2006, according to hospital spokeswoman Susan Staeger. She said the new name was a result of the improvements that came with its affiliation with the University of Pennsylvania Health System.
“Penn has been a very, very strong partner and has really helped us provide outstanding care,” Carrocino said. Cape Regional is a member of the Penn Medicine Cancer Network, a clinical affiliate of Penn Medicine for cardiac care, orthopedic care and vascular care, with more on the way.
With 1,300 employees, Cape Regional is one of the largest single employers in Cape May County and is a big part of the local economy. The nonprofit health system has continued to expand in other ways, with three urgent care centers, the Thomas and Claire Brodesser Cancer Center, the Jane Osborn Center for Women’s Health and outpatient facilities. It also owns Cape Regional Miracles Fitness in Rio Grande. All told, that adds up to an organization with an annual budget of $167 million.
In the summer, the hospital’s service area has between 700,000 and one million people.
“If we weren’t here, patients would have to travel way too far for services,” Carrocino said.
She said the goal is to meet all of the health care needs of the county residents and visitors.
“We wanted to diversify and really focus on wellness and prevention,’ Carrocino said.
Cape Regional cannot handle everything.
If someone needs heart surgery or brain surgery, they will probably be transported to an academic hospital or tertiary care center. For severe trauma, including from car crashes, patients would most likely be transported to a trauma center.
“We are not a trauma center. We can take care of a lot of the routine procedures. For a shark bite, we’ll send you to an academic center,” McCoy said. She has never seen a shark bite case, and doesn’t believe any have come to the hospital. “We get a lot of fish-hooks.”
When you include the urgent care centers, she said, staff probably treat five or six fish-hook-related injuries a day in the summer.
On a summer weekend, Cape May County’s beach resorts draw hundreds of thousands of people or more. Some of those will get hurt, some badly enough to need a trip to urgent care or the emergency room.
“We’re here to serve people from all over the world,” said Carrocino.