CAPE MAY COURT HOUSE — With a multimillion-dollar expansion underway for a new outpatient surgery center and a new partnership with Cooper University Hospital, officials at Cape Regional Health System are feeling pretty good.
Crews broke ground in June on 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 in summer 2020, the $15 million expansion is designed for outpatient procedures.
There has been a major shift toward ambulatory care centers, with far fewer patients admitted overnight, said Dr. Andrea McCoy, the hospital’s chief medical officer.
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“Now we are doing many procedures with minimally invasive and laparoscopic methods,” she said, adding patients would rather avoid a hospital stay. “Eighty 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, 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 urgent care centers in Rio Grande and Seaville. “This is the first major expansion on our campus in a long time.”
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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 Aug. 9. Days later, the hospital announced a critical care partnership with Cooper, under which physicians from the Camden-based health system will work with the critical care staff in Cape May Court House.
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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.
The name change to Cape Regional Medical Center took place in 2006, said 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.
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.
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In the summer, the hospital’s service area has between 700,000 and 1 million people.
“If we weren’t here, patients would have to travel way too far for services,” Carrocino said.
But Cape Regional cannot handle everything.
If someone needs heart or brain surgery, they probably will be transported to an academic hospital or tertiary care center. For severe trauma, including 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.”
On a summer weekend, Cape May County’s beach resorts draw hundreds of thousands of people. 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,” Carrocino said.