Bayhealth has big plans for Blue Hen site

Walk-in clinic among new offerings at former mall

By Mike Finney
Posted 6/7/24

DOVER — Rather than just watch the old Blue Hen Mall sit empty and deteriorate over time, Bayhealth has breathed new life into the once-popular shopping destination.

With its soon-to-open …

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Bayhealth has big plans for Blue Hen site

Walk-in clinic among new offerings at former mall


DOVER — Rather than just watch the old Blue Hen Mall sit empty and deteriorate over time, Bayhealth has breathed new life into the once-popular shopping destination.

With its soon-to-open 185,000-square-foot “medical neighborhood” on the south side of what is now known as the Blue Hen Corporate Center on Bay Road, the health system will own facilities on both ends of the complex, sandwiching various other agencies and offices in the middle.

The northern portion has been Bayhealth’s orthopedic and information technology office since September 2013.

The new south-end spot will feature a seven-day-a-week walk-in clinic, a large team of clinicians from various specialties and a conference center. It will house more than 200 employees.

“We’re really proud to be taking something where there are so many dying malls across this country and to be able to repurpose a building that’s been here and, conceptionally, has gone unused, (and) to reuse it and create care for the community,” said Dina Perry, vice president of physician services for Bayhealth. “It’s a good feeling to be able to do that.”

She said many of the moves into the location are happening this month, with other practices coming in “the August-September time frame.”

“We have primary care, which is a new primary care location for Bayhealth, so this is added clinic space for up to six clinicians,” she said. “It nicely aligns with our continued efforts to grow our primary care footprint here in Delaware.”

The walk-in clinic is slated for a September start.

“Part of creating this space was to kind of have a one-stop shop, if you will, for patients,” Ms. Perry said. “So, not only coming for your primary care but also having specialty services conveniently located.

“This also allowed us to be able to move out of some leased spaces (throughout the city) that were not Bayhealth-owned.”

The organization’s endocrinology office has also moved into the site, along with its diabetic educators and pulmonology, neurology and gastroenterology departments.

There will be 21 clinicians at Blue Hen, with the ability to hire over 30 more, based on exam room space that can be added.

The rehabilitation services department, which includes speech therapy and occupational therapy, is also moving from Bayhealth Hospital, Kent Campus in downtown Dover.

“They have 36 licensed therapists and support personnel that will be moving. That’s very exciting,” Ms. Perry said. “It is a better space for them, and they see about 15,000 patients a year, so that’s going to be nice space for them.

“The other aspect moving is our occupational health, which supports not just our employees but also services for corporate health care — drivers and different companies that need occupational health clearances or services.”

Bringing a concept to life

Mike Metzing, vice president of corporate services for Bayhealth, said that, after the provider bought nearly 200,000 square feet of the Blue Hen Corporate Center’s south side in 2022, it was divided into Area A and Area B.

The current focus is on completing Area B, for the 70-room walk-in clinic, which will be around 66,000 square feet.

“Earlier this year, we completed a conference center there — which is about 20,000 square feet — as a main event room and a number of breakout rooms, one of which is a boardroom that we built for the system that allows us to bring together folks from both the north and the south to one place,” Mr. Metzing said.

"Now, we have a facility large enough to support our management team, and we can have meetings, etc.”
He added that he believes the expansion is beneficial because the company is beginning to aggregate health care into a care-crossing continuum.

“The conference center is used for training and facilitating the on-boarding of staff, etc. It’s also for medical education for our nurses and for physicians. It helps us further our mission through education.”

The piece Ms. Perry is most excited about is the walk-in service.

“This is similar to what we opened in Milford a couple of years ago,” she said. “We will be open seven days a week, and these are for urgent-type things that can’t wait or don’t necessarily need an emergency room visit.

“We will have X-ray services for that, (plus) same-day results for strep throat, COVID and flu and those sorts of things, and that will be a seven-day-a-week operation.”

Meeting needs of community

With a growing population in the capital city and its surrounding areas, Ms. Perry said the need for greater access to health care is obvious.

“Health care is a challenge for finding available clinicians to take on your primary care or just access to specialty care and even the walk-in services,” she said. “The benefit of having Bayhealth providing walk-in services to a population is, if they’ve ever been to a Bayhealth facility, we have their medical records and our electronic health record in Epic (medical software), so it’s really nice coordination of care in addition to having the care available.”

Mr. Metzing added that there are also many advantages of repurposing an old shopping mall — like parking and infrastructure.

The original building was constructed in 1968 as the Blue Hen Mall, and it became Kent County’s premier shopping destination until the Dover Mall opened in 1982.

Though Blue Hen’s retail facility closed in the early 1990s, it left behind a large parking lot and access roads.

“Our goal, ultimately, is to increase access, and when it comes to parking, there’s seven spots to (each) 1,000 square feet, and we normally try to go to around five spots, so that’s a significant amount of parking, which truly is a real plus in the Dover area,” he said.

“Also, the sheer fact (is that it) was designed to be a mall, (so) the access is wonderful. People know how to get there, there’s plenty of parking, the road systems are already there, and I think it’s a win-win for everybody.”

Staff writer Mike Finney can be reached at 302-741-8230 or
Follow @MikeFinneyDSN on X.

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