Beebe Healthcare CEO Dr. David Tam urged government and the business community to explore innovative ways to meet the challenge of healthcare staffing.
Tam spoke at the annual dinner of the Delaware State Chamber of Commerce. The sold-out event brought more than 1,100 to the Chase Center on the Riverfront in Wilmington.
Tam said a shortage of nurses, physicians and others was first predicted a couple of decades ago, accelerated with the Covid-19 pandemic. He warned that if the issue is not addressed, residents could lose access to community-based healthcare. Earlier, Gov. John Carney, in remarks before attendees, pointed to an overall labor shortage that includes state jobs and teaching positions as a challenge facing the gate.
Tam noted that Beebe, based in coastal Sussex, has added 200 physicians and advanced providers to its roster, but is operating in a county that is seeing rapid population growth that will require additional staff. Beebe has also added facilities in the county.
The healthcare system is believed to be the largest employer in Sussex County, with a headcount of 3,i000, according to Tam.
The Beebe CEO was praised by Gov. Carney for his work in battling the Covid-19 pandemic. According to Carney, Tam suggested using members of the National Guard to assist in testing and other efforts.
Tam said it was gratifying to see the large crowd. the Chamber Dinner, which went virtual in 2021, with its traditional January date postponed until April in 2022 due to a winter outbreak of the virus.
A physician who served in the Navy for two decades, Tam went on to work as a California health care executive. He became well known in Sussex for packing up a UHaul trailer and moving from San Diego to take the CEO’s post before the original start date. He did so as it became clear that Covid-19 would present a challenge to health care.
It turned out that Covid-19 delivered an early blow to Sussex as the virus first hit the poultry processing industry. That led to a team from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control coming to Delmarva.
Tam spent part of his keynote address to discussing about the rapid growth of Sussex County that picked up steam during the pandemic and its diverse population that includes an active LGBTQ community.
He reported that Beebe was weather the “dark times” of Covid-19 storm and was able to keep expansion projects on schedule and on budget.
Beebe made its presence known at the annual dinner, which has been described as the biggest business networking event in the state.
Displays and other materials promoting Beebe were prominent at the Chase Center, with a promotional video that ran in conjunction with Tam’s address featuring patients and medical staff.
While Beebe has not expanded outside Sussex County, Bayhealth, the state’s second largest healthcare system behind Christiana Care opened a hospital on the northern Sussex County side of Milford and has expanded further to the south.
Beebe has opened a family practice center in Milford.